Chef Adam Kube Talks Bastille Kitchen, Opening in May

By Scott Kearnan  |  April 28, 2014

Adam Kube spent nearly a third of his life working for one of the most well known brands in hospitality. That’s especially impressive, considering he’s only 27 years old.

Kube was recently named one of our “Boston’s 30 Under 30” honorees for his work as executive sous-chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common. (In total, he spent over eight years working for Ritz properties.) Now he’s working with a very different marquee name in Hub hospitality: Seth Greenberg, the nightlife, hotel and restaurant impresario who opens his big French bistro Bastille Kitchen in Fort Point this month. It’s Greenberg’s first restaurant since the now-iconic Mistral in 1997, and it’s a big one: the $4 million development includes 240 seats over two floors and 11,000 square feet, including a subterranean cocktail lounge dubbed Chalet.  

And Kube is the young chef he tapped to take over the kitchen. We caught up with him to learn a little more about the impending opening.

ZAGAT: You started working with the Ritz when you were exceptionally young. How did that come about? 

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and lived in Georgia for a short time. But I spent most of my childhood growing up in Michigan, where in high school I got a job at this family-owned Italian restaurant that had been there for years. I started off as a dishwasher and was doing that for a couple months, but I told them right off the bat that I was interested in cooking. So one busy night they asked me to jump in, and I haven’t looked back ever since. I started doing cooking competitions through a vocational program that I was attending, and that got me scholarship money to attend Johnson & Wales. I decided to go to the Miami campus, and the fall I attended I started working for Ritz-Carlton at the Key Biscayne property. My first day was Halloween 2005! So I was working with the Ritz full-time as I was going to school full-time.

Z: Fast forward and you're about to open Bastille Kitchen. How did you come on to the project?

Mat Schaffer [a former Boston Herald food critic and current restaurant consultant] had written an article about me for Boston Common magazine. He told me that the owner of Mistral was looking for a chef for a new project. I was happy at the Ritz, and probably would have gone on to be the executive chef of the Boston property. But I decided to meet them at Bastille, and I realized it was an amazing opportunity to be part of this. I had to jump at it.

Z: What is it like to work with Seth?

It’s been great. He’s very passionate about this. When he was walking me through the shell of the restaurant, he had this clear vision in his mind that he was describing to me. I joke to people that I was like, “How do you know this pile of construction we’re standing on is going to be a bathroom?” [Laughs] But now that you see it coming to fruition, it’s just the way he described it. And he’s still so excited about it, it motivates you and makes you want to be as excited as he is.

Z: How did the menu's concept come together, and what are you most excited for about it?

Seth already had in mind the concept of a Parisian bistro in Boston. That made me work within certain guidelines in terms of the cuisine, and it was exciting to be in that atmosphere – as opposed to Artisan Bistro [at the Ritz], which was fun because you played with so many different types of cuisine. Now to be able to stick with one and really play with it is exciting for me too.

Z: Where did you find inspiration? 

I have a lot of Thomas Keller cookbooks; he’s a chef I’ve looked up to for years and he does the French concept very well, and also Alain Ducasse. I started developing the menu when I was working at the Ritz, because I needed to get something down on paper. And I needed to get my mind to stop working after those 12 to 14-hour days of running around all the time. It was my way to relax after a long day of work at the Ritz: to sit there and have a beer, thumb through cookbooks and think about things. I wanted to take classical dishes and put a modern twist on them. Of course, my menu has completely transformed, compared to when I started!

Z: What are some of the plates you think will emerge as signature standouts? [You can find our earlier look at the full menu here.]

We have a roasted bone marrow with curry and cornmeal breaded sweetbreads in a sherry-maple gastrique. Since we’re close to the Tea Party Museum I found some ways to tie in that piece of the area; so there are tea infused items, like Earl Grey tea-smoked mussels that I’m excited about. We also have a signature butter: a house made compound butter called Bastille Butter that is a combination of port wine and balsamic reduction that has shallots and aromatics, topped with an Earl Grey fleur de sel. There’s also tea-brined roasted lamb shank. People typically think of those hard worked muscles like the shank as items you would braise for a winter or fall menu. But I’m actually roasting it really low and slow – 225 degrees for six hours – so you don’t get the same heaviness. There’s a natural crustiness to the outside, then you cut into it and it just falls off the bone. And there’s a seafood sausage agnoloti. Basically I’m making a farce out of what a chef would consider the end cuts of cod, an item that would be considered waste because it’s not substantial enough to be sold as an appetizer. So I’ve made a farce out of the cod with shrimp and lobster, seasoned with paprika.

Z: Is there anything in particular you wanted to avoid as a chef?

You know, at any French bistro you’ll find certain plates - say, steak frites. But you don’t want your steak frites to be like someone else’s. I don’t want someone to see my menu and think that it mirrors somewhere else. I don’t want to copycat other chefs; chefs always play off each other’s ideas, and that’s fine. Otherwise you wouldn’t see the progression of the culinary industry. But at the end of the day, you want to create your own experience. That’s the key. You go to a restaurant for an overall experience. And we’re trying to create a high level of service that is not pretentious. There’s a fine dining feel, but it’s what you want to make of it. If you want to come after work for drinks and an appetizer and experience a casual feel, you can; if you want a great meal with a very high level of service, you’ll have that too.