An Adirondack Culinary Tale: Part Three

Long-time chef and culinarian Paul Sorgule leads us further into the DNA of a serious chef, and highlights the manifold reasons why such talented cooks head to the Adirondacks in search of inspiration and work. 

Paul Sorgule

There are many talented, committed professionals who find their place in the Adirondack Park. Certainly, the athletes, many who were born and raised in the shadow of the 46 High Peaks, would come to mind. There are likely more Olympic contenders in the Adirondacks as a percentage of the population than many other locations in the U.S., but you must also consider the Ironmen, hikers, climbers, distance canoeists, and nature guides who view this part of the world as a natural habitat – one suited to their competitive nature.

There are also those who have fine-tuned the craftsmanship of boat building, furniture making, and artistic woodcarving and know that the Adirondack Region is a perfect environment for their skill set. I also point to a growing group of culinary professionals who are carving out their niche within the Blue Line.

So, what defines the serious cook who looks to the Adirondack Region as a place to drive his or her stake in the ground and build a reputation for food? Professional cooks are a unique breed, people who will state emphatically that they were born to spend 12 hours a day behind a range. Thanks to the media interest in the life of a chef, the average restaurant guest has a cursory understanding of what makes these creative people tick, but they may not fully appreciate what truly defines a serious and successful cook.

Allow me to clarify what a cook's DNA looks like. A serious cook: 

  • Views what they do for a living as essential and important beyond sustenance.
  • Defines themselves as cooks first, being fully aware of the sacrifices that this entails.
  • Has a connection with the ingredients used and is highly respectful of the people who grow the crops, raise the animals, make the cheese, bake the bread, etc.
  • Is likely to view his or her time in the kitchen as the best part of the day.
  • Is a proud artisan who plans menus and specific dishes to marry flavors, textures, and appearance to match his or her culinary signature.
  • Is organized, focused, passionate, proud, and totally dedicated to the craft of cooking and the integrity of the dishes created in a restaurant.
  • Is a person who thrives on the ability to create and express.
  • Is physically prepared for the hard work associated with days and nights in the kitchen, but is fragile and emotionally focused on guest reactions to their work

...relish the fantastic food prepared by chefs and cooks who believe: I cook, therefore, I am.

All that being said, what attracts these culinary artisans to a place where Mother Nature challenges many of the factors that will allow them to be successful? The Adirondack growing season is short, weather conditions can be extreme, and access to many of the resources that larger cities offer restaurants can be challenging.

It may be that challenge that attracts cooks and chefs, but more than likely it is the same quality of life that brings thousands of visitors every year to the Park for a brief respite, a vacation, or an adventure.

Unlike urban centers where a good restaurant can expect a steady flow of guests throughout the year, the Adirondacks have definitive business seasons. When chefs and restaurants are busy, they are extremely busy, and when they are slow, the opposite holds true. This unpredictability is actually predictable. This challenge attracts restaurateurs and chefs who build their business model and their cuisine in an effort to thrive, even during the highs and lows of Adirondack tourism.

In recent years many exceptional chefs and restaurateurs have built these concepts in the Adirondacks to rave reviews from residents and visitors alike. These dedicated professionals and enthusiastic artisans are creating a destination culinary culture that provides yet another reason for people to make the trek to this most pristine part of the world.

Visit the Adirondacks for the beauty of nature, the opportunity to participate in, or at least observe athletic prowess, launch a canoe, attach some crampons to your hiking boots, grab a fishing pole, or simply come to relish the fantastic food prepared by chefs and cooks who believe: "I cook, therefore, I am."

Take a look at  the previous posts in the series "An Adirondack Culinary Tale: Part One" and "An Adirondack Culinary Tale: Part Two"

In future articles we will look at some of the unique culinary characters and dedicated restaurateurs who would rather call the Adirondacks home than anywhere else on earth.

Find more at: www.harvestamericacues.com and www.harvestamericaventures.com

(Photos courtesy of Kristin Parker Photography and Paul Sorgule)

 

About the Author …
Paul Sorgule
Paul Sorgule is a seasoned veteran of the food business and the current president of Harvest America Ventures, a consulting and training firm for the restaurant industry. He lives in Saranac Lake with his wife, Sharon, where they raised three kids.
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