A chef’s passion made from scratch
Greenville native has ties to restaurants past, present
When Adam LeComte of Peterborough was a teenager, the he was working as a dishwasher at the now-closed Depot Restaurant in Greenville, where he grew up. One day, one of the prep cooks didn’t show up for work, and the 14-year-old LeComte got a sudden promotion. That was his first experience with food, and the start of a lifelong passion for creativity in the kitchen.
Now 35, LeComte will be featured as a guest chef at Waterhouse during the Peterborough restaurant’s Candlelight Harvest Feast on Tuesday. LeComte prepared a fall-themed five-course meal, which he will create along with the Waterhouse’s regular chef, Corey Schoenig.
When the Depot Restaurant closed, LeComte moved over to work as a prep cook at Pickety Place in Mason, where he spent a few years before being hired at the Red Brick Inn in Greenville when he was 17. There, he met his first mentor, Dave Derry.
Derry, the head chef at Red Brick Inn, had come there after being trained in the kitchens of Walt Disney World in Florida. And under his tutelage, LeComte got serious about cooking, and his career blossomed.
“Within six weeks of being hired, he put me in charge of the kitchen, which was a big job at the age of 17,” said LeComte. “He was the one that really opened my eyes to what I was capable of. It was a small kitchen, and really fast-paced and very stressful. [Derry] told me I had all the potential to go as far in this business as I wanted to go. He was the one that really inspired me to dedicate myself to it.”
When he was 21, LeComte left his position as sous chef at Pickety Place to spend two years in Florida, working at Disney World at the recommendation of Derry. There, he met another mentor, Roland Muller. That experience ultimately shaped the kind of chef he would become, said LeComte.
“He changed the way I looked at food forever,” said LeComte. “He showed me that there was an infinite amount of possibilities with food, as long as you start from scratch. He believed the best food in the world will come from a few fresh ingredients, prepared the right way. So since then, I’ve only ever cooked from scratch. I haven’t made anything that wasn’t from scratch since I was 22 years old.”
It was a lesson that he took so to heart, in fact, said LeComte, that it has become a major cornerstone in his ultimate dream of owning his own restaurant. The restaurant, which he plans to call “Scratch” if he can gather enough money to get it off the ground, will have not just all the food made from scratch, said LeComte. He also hopes to call on the local potters and glassblowers to make the dinnerware and glasses, so that truly every part of the dining experience is made from scratch. But that’s a dream that’s still at least another three years out, said LeComte.
The venture would represent a return to the business for LeComte. Upon his return from Florida, he worked as head chef for Pickety Place and helped to overhaul the Molly Stark Tavern in New Boston to prepare it for a sale. Eventually, though, the long hours, nights and weekend work began to wear on him and his family. For the past nine years, he’s been out of the restaurant business. He’s making his own way in Internet retail and a renovations business to build capital to eventually open his own restaurant and spend more time with his two young children. But he’s kept his hand in the cooking world, he said, assisting a friend when they were opening A Heart’s Desire Bakery in Greenville, arranging charity dinners upon request, and catering the odd wedding. But mostly, he said, it was his experience in his own kitchen that has kept his skills sharp.
“When you’re working in a restaurant, you have a menu that you have to work off of. You’re cooking a lot of the same things over and over again. In my home, I’m able to cook something different every day, so you get the chance to experiment more.”
In fact, said LeComte, that freedom led him to try a bold experiment — to see if his personal philosophy of making things from scratch really could yield infinite possibilities. In 2005, he decided to see if he could go a year without repeating a single breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“It was a test of the versatility of my creativity. I shop at Market Basket, and pretty much from week to week, what’s available in terms of raw ingredients is the same. So I asked, ‘Can you take the same ingredients and find ways to combine them for three meals a day and always come up with something different?’ And I found at the end of that year, that the answer was yes.”
Even now, he noted, he rarely remakes old dishes unless it’s a request from a family member. The experimentation leads to a few duds and a few surprisingly delicious results — like his sweet potato lobster cake with mango salsa. LeComte admitted the combination sounds bizarre, but tastes amazing. Or the pistachio mousse, which has become a favorite of his children’s, and will be on the menu at the Candlelight Feast.
Waterhouse’s Candlelight Feast, with LeComte acting as guest chef, has a charge of $70 per person and will include a five-course meal including calabaza pumpkin bisque, acorn squash risotto and grilled wild boar tenderloin. Space is limited. Call for 924-4001 for a reservation.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on twitter @AshleySaari.