Tre Ghoshal might have immersion circulators, dehydrators and anti-griddles in the kitchen at his restaurant Adara in Montclair, N.J., but he’s not all about the bells and whistles of molecular gastronomy. The 30-year-old chef and entrepreneur also is well grounded in culinary fundamentals: He’s one of the country’s 65 certified master chefs, a designation given by the American Culinary Federation after passing what is by all accounts a grueling eight-day test of culinary skill and knowledge.
The son of immigrants from the Indian state of West Bengal, Ghoshal named his restaurant, which he opened last October, for a Sanskrit word for “love.”
“It’s an expression of me, really,” Ghoshal says of the restaurant. “Every single dish has a story behind it.”
Ghoshal’s own story didn’t start with a love for food. Although he’d been working in kitchens since he was a teenager, he developed a genuine appreciation of food while he was studying history and political science at Humboldt State University in the northern California town of Arcata, a two-hour drive from Napa Valley. While studying there he worked at the Rib Room at the Eureka Inn in the nearby town of Eureka under Mark Campbell, a protégé of legendary chef Thomas Keller.
“That really kind of set off the direction of my food,” Ghoshal said.
He went on to culinary school at the Art Institute of New York and then ended up working at Nouveau Sushi in Montclair, N.J., where he got in-depth experience with Japanese cuisine. He also has been chef at Rotunda at Neiman Marcus in Paramus, N.J., and at The Savoy Grill in Newark, N.J.
Those experiences plus the Indian food he grew up on inspire the food at Adara, and so do the avant-garde chefs from whom he draws inspiration.
Ghoshal discussed his food and his plans for the future with Nation’s Restaurant News.
Your publicists have described your food as “molecular cuisine.” How do you describe it?
The focus is on balance and flavor profile with a comfort level to it. It’s earthy and has a natural feel.
This restaurant’s a vision I’ve been developing after the past 16 years in the business.
But you’re only 30 years old.
I started as a dishwasher and went through the whole gamut.
But you went to culinary school anyway?
I thought I needed the red tape to advance my career. In my particular path the degree proved to be insignificant, but I’d recommend it for 98 percent of people who want to be chefs.
Everybody wants everything so quickly these days, and I think you need to grow some hair on your chest, so to speak. There’s some respect to be given to theoretical development as a chef.
Walk me through some of your dishes.
We have confit duck leg that’s crisped up and tossed with Asian barbecue sauce. It’s served with duck breast that’s cooked sous vide, pan seared and sliced thin, and a maki [sushi roll] of mango-papaya salad in rice wine vinaigrette. Black and white sesame seeds are sprinkled along the leg and the breast.
Under the duck is a coconut curry bisque with kaffir lime, a lemon grass sorbet and melon balls suspended in rose water. It’s served with crushed peanuts.
That dish has classic French technique, modern western technique, Japanese aspects of presentation and South Asian flavors. Tell me about another dish.
The Pork with Five Flavors is a pork belly that’s hickory smoked, then brined, then cooked sous vide for 48 hours. Then it’s pan seared and served with a root beer barbecue sauce.
It comes with mustard seeds braised in a sweet liquid with ginger, chile and garlic, a hot mustard ice cream and aerated rye brioche. Mustard with fish is a common marriage in Bengali cuisine.
When you say hot mustard ice cream, do you mean spicy mustard?
No, the ice cream itself is hot.
Do you use methylcellulose to get the “ice cream” to gel?
What are your plans for the future?
Adara for me is not at all the be all, end all. I’m not a rich guy. I have chef-type money and opened a restaurant as nice as I could on the limited funds I have so someone who has a lot more money than I do can be moved by the experience.
I have a two-and-a-half-year lease. I’m working on putting together and investment group to open in New York.
But I’m living a dream right now. All I’ve wanted to do is to do things my way.