If you find yourself as the executive chef of one of the city's most bustling restaurants, you'd surely be one busy person. That must reflect how Adam Newton faces the day as he commands the daily work routine in the kitchen at the always popular Clyde's of Georgetown. Old-timers know that this Clyde's history stretches back to the mid-1960s.
Of course, like many of his contemporaries, this Connecticut native got his start in the restaurant world as a dishwasher and prep cook at the Somers Inn in Connecticut. But he explains that this first kitchen job played off his early passion for cooking. "I did a lot of home cooking and baking," he said, "and from there, with my interest in cooking, I enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America."
For his externship and later as a graduate, Newton spent a considerable period on Nantucket, first at the Seagrille Restaurant where E. J. Harvey was chef-owner and later at the Wauwinet Hotel's restaurant, Toppers. There Newton worked for chef Peter Wallace, his first real mentor. "He was no 'old school' chef who would always be screaming and yelling," he explained. "He came right up to you and talked nicely. I always keep that in mind."
|If you go|
|Clyde's of Georgetown|
|Where: 3236 M St. NW|
|Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Fri., 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sun., 9 a.m. to midnight|
Later Newton returned to the school for a bachelor's degree in culinary arts management with a possibility of pursuing restaurant management. But it seems that his 10-weeks program at the West Coast branch of CIA changed Newton's goals: He discovered unusual ingredients, such as abalone, and the art of perfecting simplicity in cooking.
Returning to the East Coast, Newton came to the Inn at Little Washington, where he worked in pastry and did all the line-cook positions. "I was even helping [Patrick O'Connell, the Inn's executive chef] with his first cookbook," said Newton. "The picture of the bread I made for the cookbook is in it."
After working in several other area restaurants -- from Mendocino Grille to Oceanaire Seafood -- Newton now directs this Clyde's kitchen, where he injects some of his passion for American regional cooking. "One of the best restaurants is American Seasons on Nantucket," he said. "It broke its menu down into regions. Taking traditional American cuisine has influenced me. You take what ingredients are around us and create local dishes."
That passion for local ingredients makes Newton a perfect fit for Clyde's, the first restaurant group in the nation to source local farmers' ingredients for its kitchens. Newton concludes, "I enjoy not only working with local products and their sourcing, but also it has become my passion."
What is your comfort food?
Pasta, as Connecticut has a huge Italian population, so my favorite is spaghetti and meatballs. Also a good New York-style sub.
Which is your favorite restaurant?
Central Michel Richard and Open Kitchen [in Falls Church]
What's in your fridge?
Milk, sparkling water, leftover quesadilla, greens such as mesclun mix
What are your must-have ingredients?
Water, salt, fat, and good product. Of course, bacon or bacon products. Don't know that there is ever enough. Or pork.
How do you get your inspiration?
The seasonality of ingredients, especially from what fish vendors bring. I also look to my sous-chefs; they are hungry and have ideas. And working in other restaurants and meeting other chefs.
Prosciutto and Blue Cheese-Wrapped Figs with Arugula, Aged Balsamic and Honey
4 ounces blue cheese, preferably Echo Mountain brand
8 ripe Black Mission figs (ripe), sliced in half lengthwise for 16 halves
1/4 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into 16 lengthwise strips
2 cups arugula
Honey to taste
4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cracked black pepper
Heat a grill or saute pan until hot, or preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
Crumble the blue cheese and form it so it becomes soft and can adhere to the flesh side of the sliced figs. Wrap the prosciutto around the fig completely one and half to two full wraps.
Place figs on the hot grill cheese side down for 2 minutes and flip over to cook for 1 more minute, or until the prosciutto is slightly crisp and the cheese is melting.
Arrange about 1/2 cup arugula on four separate plates. Arrange four fig halves around the arugula. Finish each plate by drizzling a little honey, the olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the figs and arugula. Grind some black pepper over each, and serve.