Roaming cooks: Checking in with Chef Adam Gendreau of Staff Meal Boston

If you’re really in to the food scene in Boston, then you know that food trucks have rapidly become a big deal around here. And, if you know about food trucks in Boston, then you know Staff Meal.

Adam Gendreau and Patrick Gilmartin are the Staff Meal Food Truck, and they make some delicious food. They also make headlines, having gone toe-to-toe with a local, purple-cape wearing food TV program about the rights of food trucks in Boston. The point that Staff Meal tried to convey during that back and forth was really a simple one, which I believe rang true in most ears: Whether food truck, or brick and mortar restaurant… all that should really matter in the culinary world is putting out good food. Period.

The Staff Meal guys continue to do just that. The only difference is that for the next few months they’ll be doing it off the streets. If you get a hankering for a Staff Meal fix, you’ll be able to find them popping up at restaurants around Boston (more info after the interview).

I had a chance to touch base with Chef Adam Gendreau, fresh off doing a little guest-chefing at Toro for their 7th Anniversary last night (congrats, again, to Ken, Jamie, Mikey and the whole Toro team!). During the interview we touched on how Adam got his start, what it was like transitioning to working a food truck, and what’s officially on tap for Staff Meal over the winter months.

Adam Gendreau of Staff Meal Boston
Adam Gendreau of Staff Meal Boston

Foodie Journal: When was it that you realized that food and cooking was something you were passionate about?
Adam Gendreau: My old man was a chef, so I grew up helping him cook. When I was younger, I used to love to cook at home, for friends and roommates. When I was 17 I got a job as a software engineer for a consulting company. I did that for a few years until I burned out and wanted more of a challenge. I somehow was able to talk Jody Adams into giving me a job picking and cleaning herbs at Rialto. Somewhere in between her telling me how [SALTY] I was at picking herbs, and now, I realized cooking professionally was wicked fun.

FJ: So is that where you end up getting your start in the industry?
AG: [At] Rialto restaurant in Harvard Square. I had some very patient and forgiving teachers.

FJ: You started off in a restaurant environment, then you and Patrick made the jump to food trucks. Was it rough making that transition, especially considering how new food trucks were in the Boston area at the time?
AG: It was a very rough transition. There’s a common misnomer in this city that you can pull up with a truck wherever you’d like, and start making a ton of money selling food. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You might have 4 to 5 months of profitability. Then in the fall and winter months you have to work 5 times as hard to make 5 times less money. And, we’re just plain idiots for thinking that we could cook the style of food that we do, while having to rent hourly kitchen space.

FJ: So as the winter starts to kick in, you’re looking to get off the streets. Don’t think any natives are gonna blame you for that! You’ve got some pop-ups planned at District during the month, and you just finished up cooking at Toro Restaurants’s 7th anniversary. How do you approach cooking in someone else’s kitchen like that?
AG: Yeah we’re hoping to sustain our business through the winter off the streets. We’re so much more comfortable serving food to folks in a restaurant environment, so we’re going to do that. We’ve been cooking for a long time so we’ve learned to be pretty resourceful with how we heat and serve food. Once you’ve cooked food on a truck year round, any indoor space looks appealing.

And, truth be told, the Toro crew did most of the work cooking our menu. They were nice enough to feed us and get us drunk while we watched them tear it up behind the line.

FJ: What’s up next for you guys over the next few months, then?
AG: We have a regular, recurring pop-up planned for the next few months. We’re hoping to find something more permanent, and most importantly indoors, soon. Still deciding on whether or not we want to take the truck out in Boston next year. Not sure if we can stomach participating in the ridiculous food truck lottery system the city has implemented. Again.

FJ: Last, but not least, my favorite question – what’s your favorite personal food memory?
AG: Accidentally feeding a vegetarian corn chowder with a [SALT]load of bacon in it. She loved it and gave us a nice write-up on Chowhound about the incident. If I had a nickel for every vegetarian we’ve served meat to… I would have, like, 42 nickels. Math is hard.

Staff Meal will be popping up at District, located at 180 Lincoln Street in Boston, on the 18th, 21st, 22nd, 27th, 28th and the 29th of December, serving dinner from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Here’s the expected menu, but check out their Twitter feed to stay on top of all the Staff Meal happenings.

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