Q&A with Chef Adam Dulye of Abbot’s Cellar

| October 8, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Adam Dulye. Photo: Melissa Fuller
Adam Dulye. Photo: Melissa Fuller

When Abbot’s Cellar opened this summer in the Mission, the initial buzz was that it may become something more than a gastropub. The restaurant is considered a local launch for Adam Dulye, 34, who is the chef-owner and hails from Kansas City. Dulye is a a Culinary Institute of America graduate who spent time studying charcuterie and butchery in France after graduation. He first worked at Monk’s Kettle, which is the sister restaurant to Abbot’s Cellar. Before moving to the Bay Area, Dulye cooked in craft-beer centric locations in Boulder, Vail, and Portland, Oregon, where he caught the eye of the Brewers Association. In 2009, Dulye cooked at the James Beard House, at one of the foundation’s first beer and food pairing dinners.

Dulye is the Culinary Consultant for the Brewers Association, and has spearheaded the culinary menus of several events including SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience, the Farm to Table Pavilion at the Great American Beer Festival, and the 2012 World Beer Cup Dinner. In 2009 and 2010, Dulye worked with the Colorado Brewers Guild to showcase beer and food pairings at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. The Noe Valley/Bernal Heights resident is currently consulting with author Janet Fletcher on a book highlighting artisan cheese and craft beer. October’s tasting menu at Abbot’s Cellar includes pairings like hand cut pasta with brown butter Chanterelle mushrooms, brocolli di ciccio and organic porter from Eel River Brewing; bone marrow roasted root vegetables, chervil pistou with Double Barrel ale from Firestone Walker; and for dessert a sour cream cheesecake, Marcona almond shortbread and honey gastrique paired with Moonlight Brewing’s Change of Heart.

Bay Area Bites caught up with Dulye via email and in person interviews and his comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Bay Area Bites: What do you hope to accomplish at Abbot’s Cellar as Chef-Owner? Is a Michelin star a goal?
Dulye: Getting the Michelin star was a one-liner that I used when we opened. The goal here is to keep the conversation going for beer and food, and push Abbot’s to be more than a dining establishment. For diners, that hopefully means that it’s more of an experience and that you leave with more than a full belly. If you focus on that, a lot of times, things like a Michelin star can follow.

Abbots Cellar oven-roasted pork chop, caraway spaetzle, peaches and tarragon. Photo courtesy of Christian Albertson
Abbot’s Cellar oven-roasted pork chop, caraway spaetzle, peaches and tarragon–a popular mainstay of the menu. Photo courtesy of Christian Albertson

Bay Area Bites: What are you most passionate about, food-wise?
Dulye: Right now one of the areas I am focusing on is highlighting the integrity of simple ingredients. I want to highlight what the farmer believes is ready to pick and how they want it presented. Take carrots for example, they can be prepared in a way that will allow them to shine in the dish, but they have to be harvested at the perfect time. Carrots are always around but when the farmer says, “Do this with it now,” then I want to highlight what they grow and not necessarily what I did with it. We took a batch of carrots from Heirloom Organics farm and did them on a plate: puree, roasted, pickled, and raw. I was seeing where the sugar level and texture were, and doing the puree was kind of a natural thing.

Bay Area Bites: Where do you get your information about food? What’s on your nightstand reading pile?
Dulye: It’s all over the place. On my nightstand table right now is the River Cottage book. Oddly if you scrolled through my phone, the texts that go back and forth between chefs would make a pretty good read. Right now I’m texting a lot of brewers.

My good friend Kyle in Colorado sent over a picture of a one pound Matsutake. He started mushroom foraging, and I did foraging when I lived there.

Bay Area Bites: What are your thoughts on the state of beer pairing and food in the Bay Area? Where are we with knowledge and appreciation?
Dulye: Craft beer in general is on such a growth explosion. Beer pairing right now in the Bay Area is on its way up and there are some really great chefs and restaurants doing some great pairings. With anything else you have to search through all the places doing pairings and find who is really doing a great job and who is just putting a beer on the menu for the name of the beer.

As far as knowledge goes, the Bay Area is at a bit of a plateau. Not in a bad way. There is so much to learn and the basics have been hit. Most people know about IPA, Pale Ale, Stout, and Porter, etc. But now we have sours being the “it” beer in the Bay right now and the knowledge there is pretty low. Collaboration beers and new versions of old styles are coming out all the time and it is a challenge for everyone to keep up. Sours and IPAs range and people think, “that’s what it’s supposed to taste like.” There’s so much polar difference from IPA to IPA. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. People want to learn more about beer. But it’s challenging because people think IPA is the most popular beer style and you have to like it. If you don’t like it, they think it’s not for you.

Appreciation for beer in the Bay Area is at an all-time high. The amount of people who have had their “a-ha” that’s what beer can do moment is growing and people are seeking to expand their knowledge. Honestly, the best beer you have is the one right in front of you.

Bay Area Bites: How did you get into pairing beer with food?
Dulye: I grew up in Kansas City, where Boulevard is the pillar of brewing. I was doing a lot of different wine, beer and spirits dinners when I was younger. When I was in Vail I did an event called Taste of Vail that was up on top of Vail and a 3000 person event. I was going to lick the snow wall, and thought, this is painfully bright and rather warm. There was one brewer there and we ended up talking and having a few beers. Being in Colorado, it kind of rolled into doing other things with breweries there and I just kept doing it. It was fun. And I enjoyed the people I was working with and how open people are. That openness is unique to brewing and everyone’s willing to share what they know. That’s a rare thing in a competitive industry.

Bay Area Bites: What are some of your favorite food and drink spots in the Bay Area?
Dulye: Rock Bar for a Manhattan.

I get coffee every morning at Cafe Fiore on 24th Street. That counts, right? Coffee is a Bay Area “drink” now.

Range is a great neighbor to have for both food and cocktails. I tend to drink cocktails and wine when I go out more often than beer. I want to try the experience that they are offering.

Bay Area Bites: Do you have any foods that are a guilty pleasure?
Dulye: Peanut butter cookies. Well, just cookies. Every now and then a warm cookie is a relaxing thing.

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About the Author ()

Mary Ladd is a freelance writer and event professional based in her hometown of San Francisco. Her writing has been featured in SF Weekly, Tasting Table, the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere. She has shuttled Anthony Bourdain around town and mastered the art of properly loading a catering van in a flash. Mary has eaten the world’s hottest burger and loves to cook and eat. Follow her at @mladdfood