Restaurant sales may be flagging, but the demand for healthy, restaurant-quality meals isn’t. Smart supermarket retailers are taking this opportunity to step up their fresh meal programs to offer convenient ready-to-eat offerings. And some, like Ada’s, are going the extra step with epicurean delights, prepared by in-house chef Brooke Wagenheim, whom we recently spoke with
Talk about your culinary background a bit
I moved here from Tokyo, where my sister and I own a restaurant. Before that I was trained by different types of chefs from all around the world, who all took me under their wing and taught me what they know in the line of natural and organic foods.
So ethnic meals must be a big focus for you?
Definitely. I make all kinds of international food: Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Hungarian, German, and then of course, American.
What else do you offer that’s popular?
We have up to 20 flats of hot foods, so sometimes I’ll do an organic chicken cutlet with fresh lemon, or chicken Parmesan, or Indian-style chicken. I also have chicken salad, tuna salad, hummus and tabule. I do scallops and shrimp. I do fresh fish. I have four different types of homemade soup. And I always have a dish for people who want comfort food, like a fresh lasagna or quiche. Everything is completely homemade. I don’t use any packaged ingredients.
Do you have a set menu that you follow?
I don’t make lists and I don’t make menus. I really cook a capella every day. It’s just a blank canvas, and there’s always something different.
How has the recession affected your job and what you’re preparing?
My goal is to try to reach as many people as I can, and to let them know how important it is to eat healthy, and then give them ways to do it in this economy. I’ve actually taken on some private cooking classes in people’s homes. I’ve also changed up my in-store cooking classes to where I’m using ingredients that don’t cost a lot of money but are very flavorful.
Any challenges in being both chef and advice guru at Ada’s?
Since it’s an open kitchen and I do all the cooking myself, sometimes it’s a little trying. So I made two pictures, one with me wearing a red hat and one with me not wearing a red hat. The caption says: If you’re a customer and the chef is wearing the red hat, please come back later. She’s really busy when she’s wearing the red hat.