Meatballs and mischief
Adam discovered his love of cooking when he was 5 years old. “I would sleep at my grandmother’s house on Saturday nights and help her cook our big Italian family dinner on Sundays.” Every week, he happily joined Nana in the kitchen where he made the meatballs, stuffed peppers, and sauce, taking pride in the science and technique that went into it all. At age 11, Adam realized it wasn’t cool to sleep at his grandmother’s house anymore. Just like that, Nana’s favorite helper was off the job.
As Adam became a teenager, cooking with his grandmother wasn’t the only thing in which he lost interest. “I was kind of a mischievous young man; school wasn’t really my thing, so my mom was trying to find a way to help me focus on something other than sports or terrorizing neighborhoods.” Her goal was to do whatever it took for Adam to graduate. She remembered how excited he was to be in the kitchen when he was a kid, which is how she came up with the idea of enrolling him in a culinary arts program at a vocational school in Long Island.
“I was really hesitant because it had the stigma of being where the losers kids would go,” Adam said. “But literally the first day I was in the kitchen there, I knew that cooking was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was the most unbelievable thing that’s ever happened to me to this day.”
Even though Adam was only 16, his skills in the kitchen landed him jobs in some of the best restaurants on Long Island. “I decided to give up soccer my senior year of high school so I could work and cook. I was a great soccer player so no one understood it, but I gave it up because all I cared about was being in the kitchen.”
While Adam’s father was adamant that his son needed a college experience, Adam listened to his mentor and certified master chef John Johnstone instead. Johnstone insisted culinary school wasn’t worth it and that Adam would receive the same education by working in kitchens; he gave him a job running the fish station at Tavern on the Green, which made Adam the youngest chef de partie in the history of the restaurant.
But even that wasn’t enough to keep his dad from getting fed up with the fact that he was still living at home and not paying rent, so a year and a half after high school, Adam enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where he graduated with honors.