Like many successful chefs, 2011 New York Rising Star Chef Adam Schop did some of his learning at the Culinary Institute of America and a whole lot if it in professional kitchens. A New York native, Schop spent much of his early experience well west of the Mississippi. His first official job behind the burner, as a saucier at Lon’s Hermosa Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona, led to a sous chef gig at Michael’s Restaurant at the Citadel. From there Schop went on to work with James McDevitt (Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef” in 1999) at Restaurant Hapa, where he was first introduced to the Japanese art of fish handling under Chef Nobu Fukada.
With so much varied experience under his belt, Schop was more than ready to accept the chef de cuisine position at Scottsdale’s renowned Zinc Bistro, where he further refined his technique with a concentration on classic French cuisine. The most definitive experience for Schop, however, was in the Windy City at DeLaCosta, where he first acquired a deep appreciation for Latin cuisine. Under Chef Douglas Rodriguez, Schop learned to honor the authenticity of traditional South American flavors, a skill he cultivated with trips to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Spain.
Now, with one-year-old Nuela, Schop brings the time-honored flavors and techniques of South American cuisine back to his Big Apple hometown, offering modern day twists for his savvy New York audience. The 200-seat restaurant and ceviche bar encapsulates the excitement and energy of South America. With an urban sabor, it pulls influence from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela—and shows off the kind of deep-rooted passion a chef can have when he meets, and eats, the right cuisine for him.
Interview with Chef Adam Schop of Nuela - New York, NY
Emily Bell: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Adam Schop: I was inspired at an early age by family gatherings and holidays cooking with my grandparents and mother.
EB: What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?
AS: Have no expectations for the first three to four years. Just be open to learning and practicing your craft.
EB: Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs with or without a culinary background?
AS: I don’t recommend culinary school. I hire cooks with or without culinary degrees. I do appreciate cooks that have the ability to fulfill their commitment, but usually chefs who have gone to cooking school don’t have that much of a difference in skill set.
EB: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
AS: I participate in many fundraisers and donate dinners to private residences.
EB: What steps are you taking to become a sustainable restaurant?
AS: We currently buy all sustainable fish. We purchase our chickens, rabbits, piglets, and ducks from local sources. We recycle, compost, and turn in our refuse oil for biodiesel.
EB: What ingredient do you feel is underappreciated?
AS: Common sense!
EB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
AS: Fifty percent of it is, if you put shit in an oven, you will take shit out of it. The rest is technique, discipline, empathy for your team, and consistency.
EB: What goes into creating a dish?
AS: I usually start with an ingredient or a concept that interests me. I will research the most simple form or beginning of my idea to develop a dish that is truthful and relevant to the restaurant I am cooking in.
EB: What trends do you see emerging?
AS: Going back to the basics—cooking great ingredients well!
EB: How do you keep abreast of the latest trends?
AS: The Internet is the greatest resource the culinary world has ever had.
EB: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
AS: Remaining relevant to retain our core base, as well as attract new traffic.
EB: What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your job?
AS: Maintaining a healthy balance of work and my precious family—my wife Sara and my son Max.
EB: If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be?
AS: I wish that I had spent time cooking in Europe early in my career.
EB: What are some of your favorite food-industry charities?
AS: SOS and Common Threads.
EB: Which person in history would you most like to cook for, and why?
AS: George Carlin. I admire him as an entertainer, as well as an individual with a perspective that I relate to.
EB: Which chef would you most like to cook for, and why?
AS: All the chefs that I have worked for and alongside in the past. We always have great time cooking and eating with each other. It is most rewarding for me to exchange ideas with the folks who’ve been a major part of my career.
EB: What’s your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
AS: Having My “Arroz con Pato” being endorsed by The New York Times as one of the “Top 10 Dishes” in New York for 2010.
EB: What does success mean for you?
AS: Being able to honestly believe you achieve your goals on a daily or weekly basis.
EB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
AS: Hopefully able to lead and inspire several teams in multiple restaurants.
EB: If you weren’t a chef, what do you think you’d be doing?
AS: Probably a doctor.
EB: What would be your last meal?
AS: Caesar salad, two dozen Wellfleet oysters with lemon and Tabasco, prime rib, french fries, and crème brûlée.