“I really fucking love it.” So says recent Bay Area-transplant Adam Tortosa of San Francisco. And why wouldn’t he? Tortosa will soon be the executive chef at 1760, the eagerly anticipated (July, says a rep), more casual spinoff from the celebrated team behind Acquerello.
Since moving to the city in February, Tortosa (who’s done time under Michael Voltaggio at Ink and Katsu-ya Uechi at Kiwami, both in L.A.) has been getting to know the team at Acquerello, shadowing area chefs (he spent the day prior to our meeting with Haven’s Kim Alter), and working on dishes for 1760, whose concept is being billed as “Italian-inspired California cuisine.”
Here we talk ramen, Easy-Bake Ovens, and what became of his American Express card.
If your decision to become a chef could be traced to one food memory, what would it be?
This is my mom’s favorite story. When I was mad little, probably three or four, I asked for one of those Easy-Bake Ovens. And my mom was kinda—she didn’t know what that meant. So I’ve always—my parents are okay cooks but it’s not like it’s in the family really. I don’t know why.
Go Playskool! Next: You have a guest at home you want to impress. What’s the go-to meal?
[A couple weekends ago], there’s this girl I kinda wanted to impress—she’s like, what are we going to do today? So the plan is we’ll go to the farmers market and we’ll barbecue; I’ll have some kids over. I have a small group of friends here… The person I called was like yeah, I’m down—and I’m with six people, so it turned out to be like forty people—and my place is not the biggest. So, I barbecued… Just big pieces of meat that you can marinate, put on the grill, a couple side salads… Something you can do beforehand, and doesn’t require, like, work. That’s the last thing you want to do on your day off.
Okay, so, this is tricky given that you’re not open yet, but if somebody could only eat at 1760 once, what should they order?
I wish I knew!
Is there a dish you’re playing with that you’re particularly excited about?
Yeah, but who knows what actually ends up on the menu. I’ve made a shitload of dishes and I’ll go to Giancarlo [Paterlini], Gianpaolo [Paterlini], Suzette [Gresham], everyone in the kitchen, and—there are some favorites, but who knows if they’ll make it on the menu… [They] might be pissed if I say anything… I mean… it’s not that secretive.
What do you think is the best dining experience in the Bay Area, other than here?
That’s a shitty question! No, I like San Francisco because there’s great restaurants everywhere. Every neighborhood has cool restaurants, a place you can walk to, there’s everything. The first month I was here, I literally maxed out my American Express just going out to eat.
No. Now all I eat is Top Ramen… All the Daniel Patterson restaurants are super good; Meadowood’s really fucking sick. I like Nopa, Bar Tartine, Five Spice Chicken—the place up the street! There’s a lot; I don’t have a favorite though.
Allright—and we’ll just put this to all the restaurants you’ve worked in. What’s the most outrageous thing that’s ever gone down?
What does everyone else say for that? How—how outrageous?
Well, I’ve heard cocaine mentioned more than once.
Every restaurant has cocaine. That’s not that outrageous.
…No, I mean customers doing it on the table.
Oh! Okay… Can we get back to that?
Okay. You killed your sommelier and you’re on death row. Last meal?
Probably really high-end sushi. Reallllly high-end. Or Sapporo Ramen.
Ha! One ingredient you couldn’t live without?
Citrus. I use that in everything. Even a heavy, hearty dish—everything can be brightened up a little. I love it; I could eat it raw.
Favorite food city?
Tokyo. Have you been?
So, like, this restaurant [he takes my voice recorder as a prop and slams it down; I pray to the gods of technology that it will survive this interview] only does eel. The best fucking eel you’ve ever had. And this restaurant? Ramen. There’s a hundred different types of restaurants but all this one does is ramen, but it’s the best fucking ramen you’ve ever had… You can’t be that good at one thing if you’re so spread out. Their culture is take one thing, learn the fuck out of it, make it the best you can. That produces amazing food. But it means that if me, you, and two other kids go out, we have to all be down to have eel… The best everything I’ve ever had is [in Tokyo].
Okay, fill in the blank: people might be surprised to see me eating ___.
Sapporro Ramen. All I eat now is Sapporo Ramen—take out the ramen, poach an egg in the same water so you don’t have to clean two things. I have a little herb garden with mint, cilantro; I’ll run down there while it’s cooking. I eat that five times a week. I don’t know if that’s surprising… I eat my roommates’ leftovers – that’s probably surprising for them.
Ha!! Allright. Bacon: Awesome or overrated?
The fact that you’re asking probably means it’s overrated. It’s an ingredient like everything… All ingredients are essentially equal, but if I put bacon on everything then it’s a crutch… But you wouldn’t ask that about, like, kale.
Well, I’ve yet to see a cupcake with kale frosting. Okay, back to most outrageous!
Oh shit I forgot. I have no fucking idea. I mean, we don’t have a restaurant yet so there’s nothing outrageous there…
Well you’ve worked in many—
I can’t throw any of my old bosses under the bus…
We can keep it anonymous—
Can you, like, make up a funny, cool story?
I have no idea. Can I text you when I think of one?
What’s your number?
[Dear reader: you know how this story ends. No text, though the recorder did survive.]
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