My story begins in 1984 in my hometown of Chicago Illinois, a food-obsessed city with a big culinary personality. As a kid, I wasn’t running home after school to kick around a ball or check out the latest video game, I was running into the kitchen to help my mom put dinner on the table! What I would learn later in life is these countless days spent watching her sprinkle a little bit of this and mixing in a little bit of that into delicious dishes my family and I relished in together is what inevitably started my drive to become a chef.
After a scheduling mistake in high school that landed me in a cooking class rather than a journalism course on the day hospitality giant Johnson & Wales University came to do a presentation, my professional journey began. And yes…I do believe in fate! I call that day the lightning strike. I entertained my competitive side with a slew of cooking competitions and was fortunate enough to be called upon by the Florida Marlins to cater the 2003 World Series. After graduating Johnson & Wales University, I took a position with the Five Diamond Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. It was at the Mandarin Oriental where I learned first-hand from Executive Chef Patrick Lassaque the good, the bad and the ugly of the restaurant business. Shortly thereafter, I landed in Napa Valley to stage with the great Chef Thomas Keller and Chef Cindy Pawlcyn. I still pinch myself that I was able to glean even a sliver of knowledge from these remarkable chefs. While some people thought a teenager had no business writing a cookbook, I had so many ideas, recipes and food memories I wanted to make a reality since childhood that a book seemed like a natural next step. I mustered together what I could and self-published my first book, Maximum Flavor. Then, as fate would have it, the phone rang and a Montell Williams Show producer claimed to be on the other end (though I was convinced I was being pranked by a friend). They were preparing an episode on inspiring young entrepreneurs and wanted to invite me, as the youngest cookbook author, on the show. I was blown away and humbled beyond belief. Thanks to that appearance, I sold enough books to make my restaurant dreams a reality.
We opened Chef Adrianne’s in 2007 in a Kendall strip mall. As a 22-year-old just starting out, my resources were limited, and this was where I could afford the four walls, I needed to realize my dream. There were the obligatory naysayers that quipped about the location, but as people started to eat my food and taste my passion on a plate, it was their opinion that mattered most. Soon, Chef Adrianne’s was being labeled as a “hidden gem” or a “destination dining must”, which certainly was good enough for me. We guided the restaurant through the recession with just my trusted Sous Chef Eglis Siu (now Corporate Executive Chef) and I in the kitchen and successfully came out the other side.