After 18 months in full-blown get-to-know-you mode, Chef Adam Barnett is feeling very much part of the culinary scene in Winston-Salem.
Barnett was hired in July 2017 as executive chef at the relatively new The Katharine Brasserie and Bar, which was the location of the first Chef’s Table of 2019. The event sold out in less than eight hours and then Barnett agreed to add another 15 seats for a total of 45. Those additional seats sold out in less than 30 minutes. Needless to say, people are interested in what Barnett is doing. Many of the attendees of Chef’s Table, which was held on Jan. 8, had never been to The Katharine and they were ready for what he was cooking up.
Named for Katharine Reynolds, The Katharine has been written about by me and others many times, from media events and regarding seasonal menu changes or new additions, so if you’re a regular reader of YES! Weekly, you know I’ve walked away impressed with the food and service more than once. And just about every time I’ve dined at the brasserie, we’ve enjoyed some of the best wine pairings I’ve ever experienced. You’re going to catch a glimpse of the food from the Chef’s Table, but this piece is more about the man than the menu.
Barnett grew up as a regular kid in Columbus, Ohio, and enjoyed summers with his mother’s family in Nova Scotia, Canada, which he attributes to his sense of wanderlust. After deciding that academia was not for him, he took a more “hands-on approach” in construction. And you know how winter is in the construction field. “I needed some winter hours, and I started working in a restaurant,” he said. “I had one chef take some interest in me, then I got shuttled along to another restaurant, and then I hit the road.” Barnett has had stints in Aspen, Colorado; Toronto, Ontario; Vermont; Los Angeles; Big Sur, California; and most recently Washington D.C. “I spent eight years in the school of hard knocks, real-world training and eventually landed in the advanced placement program at the New England Culinary Institute.” Afterward, it was in California that he honed his skills in modern French techniques, which serves him well at The Katharine, a French-inspired brasserie, but Barnett said they don’t want to be too dogmatic about it.
“I’ve worked with some very, very good classically French chefs and that’s always been the underpinning of what I do,” he said. “But like everything else, cuisine evolves. You sit back and take a look at who inspires you or you look at re-discoveries of ethnicities, and I try to incorporate that into what we’re doing here.” While we may think of French cuisines as heavy with butter and cream and bread, Barnett feels that France’s influence in its former colonies in places like the Mediterranean allows him to offer a more relatable, global approach, and the menu of the Chef’s Table was a reflection of that.
Apple Rutabaga Soup garnished with Parsley Oil.
Arugula and Shaved Fennel Salad, Parsnip Crisps Preserved Lemon Dressing
Seared Diver Scallops, served with a Ginger – Carrot Emulsion, Batonnet Beets and Radish Sprouts.
Course Four (Meat Course)
Grilled Painted Hills Flat Iron Steak, Caramelized King Trumpet Mushroom, Foie Gras and Madeira Sauce.
Thomasville Tomme (from Sweetgrass Dairy in Thomasville, Georgia), Campo de Montalban (a blended cows’, goats’ and sheep’s milk from Spain), Honey-Walnut Spread, House-made Ginger-Apple Butter, Herb Salad
Barnett took some time to get to know the space and cultivate an air of good community with the culinary team itself. The Kimpton hired new management, a new sommelier, and he said now The Katharine is better than it has ever been. “I feel so tremendously honored to work with this group, from our back of house to our management and our sommelier. They’re a big part of the engine. It’s never a one-person show.”
Barnett said he’s enjoyed the community and has felt the embrace and he can’t imagine doing anything different. “I love the visible, tangible marker of a day well spent. And that’s one of the great things about working with food. You get raw ingredients in, you apply technique, you hand it over to someone, and you get to see the satisfaction. There’s a profound sense of enjoyment from that.”
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.
The Katharine Brasserie & Bar is located at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, 401 N. Main St., Winston-Salem. katharinebrasserie.com