David Adjey is Canada’s secret they don’t want to share with the world. On Food Network Canada’s The Opener, Mr. Adjey seeks out first time restauranteurs who know their Drake lyrics better than running a business. Why doesn’t this play anywhere outside Canada again?!
Until Food Network America/UK gets some sense literally knocked into them via flying chopsticks, you can visit his Toronto based old fashioned fried chicken saloon/diner, The Chickery. And write a mean letter to US Food Network headquarters?
Your mission at The Chickery is to create fast food with normal looking things we love eating. Meaning no mystery meat, no fingernails in the fries, no bizarre “rhino esophagus colorant #69 substitute for hamburger meat” on the label and basically, anything fast food is known for. Which begs the question, what are you going to do when people demand we have The Chickery across every town in the USA and Canada, possibly the world? How are you going to maintain the natural ingredients aspect and expand your fast food empire? It’s gonna happen!
We plan to maintain the natural ingredients aspect across all markets by keeping a tight control over the suppliers that we use, and adhering to the brand’s overall philosophy regardless of location. Everything we make at The Chickery starts with real food. It’s what we focus on. The focus is on realingredients. And what I mean by that is if we are going to make a sweet potato, it’s delivered to the restaurant as a real sweet potato. Of all our ingredients, there’s nothing you can’t pronounce or is odd that’s served. We serve real wholesome food and put a spin on it. It makes it easy to stand by everything we make because it’s real food.
What initially made you fall in love with fast food? The comfort? The salt?
I spent my whole career at higher end establishments that serve snooty over-priced food. That’s where accomplished chefs tend to gravitate towards, they seem to percolate to the top, to fine dining. But you can only touch so many people at a fine dining, 50 seat establishment. At a fast casual restaurant, I have the opportunity to feed over 1,000 people a day! And the opportunity to expand The Chickery across the city of Toronto, across Canada, the United States, and worldwide, I’m able to feed so many more. I can proudly put my name behind it because the menu was crafted with integrity and I can reach so many more people than at the fine dining level.
You’ve said you’re done with cookbooks because “print is dead.” You’re right. The Internet is murdering cookbooks with a vengeance. This is no fun. How are you going to reinvent the job description of a celebrity chef? What happens after cookbooks fall into The Matrix? You talked about an app. What else?
The funniest thing about cookbooks is that the number one room they are read in is the bedroom. It’s like food porn. They’re oohing and ahhing over over-styled food dishes. Now they can do it on their iPad and iPhone. People at home want celebrity chefs to talk to them and walk them through a dish. An app can do exactly that. It can transport myself from my kitchen into yours.
Also, you declared celery the most underrated ingredient. What cool stuff can we do with celery? Can it ever successfully be a main ingredient and not only appeal to those on a depressing diet?
Yeah, I love celery! I like the hearts, the sour leaves, the pale yellow leaves that I would watch my mom cut off and throw in the garbage. After eating it, I realized it was a very diverse ingredient. It has an as astringent quality to it that allows many applications that most people wouldn’t think of.
Is there such a thing as a classic Canadian dish, or is the food in Canada too diverse to contain it in one category?
It’s difficult. We certainly have indigenous ingredients that we are known for. When people think of Canada they might immediately think of maple syrup, but we have more than maple trees here! Living in Toronto is such a diverse multicultural city, I credit it for allowing me to be successful all over the world. Our food is a melting pot of all these wonderful cultures and what amazes me is when people modify their culture’s food when they come to Toronto. They adapt to what ingredients are here in Canada. That’s what makes it exciting.
What do you recommend people do for food when arriving in Toronto? They’re tired of The Chickery, having eaten there 48 hours straight for all snacks and meals, and now, these people demand something else. Where do they shop for groceries and eat out?
St. Lawrence Market would have to be one of your first stops, it’s an amazing city market. It’s a great spot for a quick bite to eat and provides inspiration to where you can eat out in Toronto. Even for me, there’s the axiom to never go shopping hungry but I like to because it gets the juices flowing and gets me inspired. You walk through the market and a light bulb goes off because you see someone making kimchi and now you want Korean barbecue.
Are you going to be back on TV soon with new material? Will we ever see you on Food Network UK or Food Network USA? I know you did Iron Chef, but it’s so sad American audiences don’t know you better. They can surely squeeze you in between all the Barefoot Contessa and Giada airings. All people need is ONE episode a week!
Yeah, you know what, there are different options out there. I think I can better deliver a message, not necessarily on network television, but there are so many different channels out there where I can fit. Like Vice and Vice Foods, my bad boy persona can fit in really well in that type of showcase. I want to tell the message I want to tell, I don’t want to be diluted. Chefs are an important part of our culture, anyway you look at it you gotta eat. There are guys that need to tell it like it is and I am one of those guys.