Jody Adams’s Trade opens this week, at last, in a flurry of anticipation and excitement and glowing previews. And while many of us know Jody Adams, either as the face of Rialto, or from her countless charitable works (and maybe from that appearance on Top Chef Masters), fewer know the man behind the stove at her newest venture. His name is Andrew Hebert, and he’s been working under Adams at Rialto, and before that at Blu, for several years. She hand-plucked the 28-year-old Virginia native from South Carolina, where he’d gone for a bit to get away from it all, luring him back up North to helm the kitchen at this, her first solo endeavor. Grub Street chatted with the exec chef as he prepares to open his doors at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Congress Street.
How did you and Jody come up with Trade’s menu?
I have a lot of experience working with Jody. My eight years in Boston have been with her; my food is reminiscent of hers. When we first were collaborating on the menu, a lot of it was similar to Rialto. We kept making tweaks and changes to the dishes so it didn’t seem so Mediterranean. We brainstormed, and read books, and came up with great ideas [based on] experiences from our travels. Jody has spent a lot of time in Southeast asia and really loves Middle Eastern and Greek food. We tried to create dishes with those spices and flavors.
Any favorite ingredients that we should be on the lookout for?
We have kaffir lime salt, from Indo-China, the leaves are kind of bitter. But it’s great for seasoning things. There’s also a lot of preserved lemon and harissa and the Moroccan, North African spices; avocado and mango and tamarind. A lot of those ingredients come from Southeast Asia and the Middle East, but we’ll also use lots of local ingredients, too. We have a grilled squid salad that I love. It’s a Mediterranean dish, but we use our local Rhode Island squid.
How did you narrow down your dishes to arrive at a final menu?
We both made a list of dishes we wanted. There were 150 things that we had to narrow down. We communicate really well; it was fun to do. We’ve been working on this since February, and the menu has changed drastically since then, with a lot of testing.
How would you describe Trade’s cuisine?
We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves to say we’re a doing Middle Eastern food or Mediterranean food. We wanted to have fun and do what we want with ingredients that we wanted to use. there is a lot of everything from around the world and it goes back to our travels and our experiences.
So fess up: Are you a little bit scared, going from the shelter of Rialto to the high profile of Trade?
Rialto is a well-established restaurant. I started as a line cook and worked my way up. Opening a new restaurant, there’s nothing there. It’s kind of eye-opening and a lot of work. You forget about the little things, like, oh you have to order the right plates and make sure you have the right pans. It was a fun challenge.
Why did you leave Boston? And how did Jody get you back?
She knows me and I know her very well; we kind of know what the other is thinking. I was just, for seven months, in charleston. I had left Boston for a number of reasons, to experience something different. In Charleston, I was just a line cook and enjoying long rigorous days standing on the hot line. Then Jody called and wanted me to come back and offered me this management position, where I can pick the menu and pick my staff and design the kitchen.
Why do you think Trade works in this location?
Well, right now I’m standing on the corner, and there’s not a lot to pick from for a restaurant that you can sit down in to enjoy a meal. A lot of grab and go and food trucks. We have Sportello across the channel, and menton, but those are different restaurants. If i wanted to get a beer, and i was looking around and if trade was open, that’s where i’d go for a beer! I think people want something like that.
Which dishes are you most proud of?
I really think that what i am happy about is our flatbreads. People are going to walk in the front door, and they’re going to see the oven. Jody and I went on a pizza-tasting tour. We went to Seattle and tasted as many as we could here in boston. We love our dough by itself, and we think our toppings are really fun and different.
Say more about this dough.
It’s a really simple pizza dough that was kind of a collaboration between a dough we had in mind that have used at Rialto, plus the Wood Stone oven people gave us a few pointers here and there. [Adams and Hebert flew to Washington state to spend time working with the team behind Wood Stone ovens.] I’d never used a pizza oven like that. We’re making our own lamb sausage, eggplant puree, mushroom and fig pizza, roasted tomatoes. I got a Ph.D. in pizza-making, and it was really exciting.