Chef Brian Adair joined the RLC Community as executive chef at Walnut Grove two and a half years ago after making a name for himself in the world of casino dining. We asked him about his casino background, his kitchen at Walnut Grove, and when it comes to food what his residents crave.
RLC: Do you have formal culinary training?
Adair: My training is mostly from the school of hard knocks. When I was younger, I traveled around the country learning from chefs willing to share their information. Then Mark Black, the executive chef at Ameristar Casino, took me under his wing.
RLC: How did you come to work in the casino industry, and what did you learn there?
Adair: When I returned to this part of the world, I knew I could work in restaurants and the casinos around here were the three biggest employers. I loved it. I worked in seven different kitchens, all under one roof. I learned as much as I could about banquets, production, butchery, buffet work, short order cooking and fine dining. I thought, “This is awesome! I don’t have to work in five separate restaurants to learn all this stuff.”
Here at Walnut Grove, we have such a wide variety of food we need to know how to cook: from Indian curry to chicken potpie to Hawaiian food. The casino background helped with that immensely because there, we had to cook 170 different items in 45 days and not repeat the menu.
RLC: Where did you learn to be leader?
Adair: Sports. I had a couple of good coaches. And at one of the mom and pop restaurants I worked for, I saw the owner struggling. The owner is the wheel of a restaurant. He or she has to orchestrate everyone. I (very nicely) moved him out of the way and fixed his job. I thought, ‘Wow! I can do this.’
RLC: What is the most valuable lesson you pass on to chefs in training?
Adair: Humility. It’s important to acknowledge what one doesn’t know or understand. Also, try to avoid the trap of thinking something is wrong when someone has another viewpoint. There’s always a way to try new things and to learn from each other.
RLC: What made you take a chance and join the RLC community?
Adair: I was working for an Omaha restaurant and while my son was being born, I was doing the restaurant inventory in the delivery room. That’s when I decided to try something else - to be there for my kids.
RLC: What’s your favorite part about heading up the kitchen at Walnut Grove?
Adair: The connection with my team. And that translates to a connection with the residents. We get along great as a team and that shows in the dining room. You really get to see that people enjoy what we’re making.
RLC: Every one of our communities seems to have a unique food culture. What is the food culture like at Walnut Grove?
Adair: I’d say we’re a meat and potato-based community. There are trendier foods, and we’re slowly introducing it to the residents but at the end of the day, our residents love their comfort food.