LA Chef Adam Gertler

(Originally published November 8, 2012 on Examiner.com).

“Oh, you’re an actor? Wow, really? Which restaurant?” For Adam Gertler the response to this joke is a bit more involved and still evolving. Currently best known as the Food Network personality from ‘Will Work for Food‘ and ‘Kid in a Candy Store‘, Gertler’s background in both acting and the food service industry has taken him down a relatively unique path. A path that he continues to travel with other Food Network productions, a new line of sausages called ‘Gertlers’ Wurst’ to be sold in retail outlets, pop-ups, and a permanent restaurant in the foreseeable future called Gertlers’ Kitchen featuring these sausages made in house at the restaurant.

At the end of Adam’s current path, Adam is seeking to become the Ben & Jerry of sausages by providing, both through retail and restaurants, a whole array of unique and different flavors of healthier sausages made with better cuts of meat and fresh ingredients.

Gertler started working in the restaurant industry at fifteen years of age, but rather than going to culinary school, he studied acting at Syracuse University. During his time in Syracuse, Gertler developed a love and obsession for BBQ at Dinosaur Bar B Que. After school, while part of a traveling acting group TheatreWorksUSA performing in schools on the East Coast and through the South, Adam’s BBQ obsession grew greater when he got the opportunity to sample even more varieties of barbecue including Texas style smoked beef and pork links.

When he wasn’t traveling or acting elsewhere in NYC (like in Central Park as Hamlet), Adam during his time in NYC worked as a waiter for the one of the Hillstone Restaurant Group’s Houstons as a waiter where his brother Keith, the manager, got him a job. When Adam relocated to Los Angeles in 2002, he was able to support his acting career as a waiter for another Hillstone group restaurant Bandera’s where he was transferred to on Wilshire. A regional Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial was one of Adam’s acting accomplishments during his first two year stint in Los Angeles, but when his brother Keith opened up a new barbeque restaurant, The Smoked Joint, in Philadelphia in 2005, Adam moved back to the East Coast to be his brother’s chef and pit master.

Unfortunately due to a lot of rookie owner mistakes, The Smoked Joint wasn’t successful. So after this restaurant’s two year run, Adam returned to acting in commercials, industrial films for corporations…..and waiting tables at Jose Garces’ Amada. But as fate would have it, Adam submitted an audition tape to the reality show ‘The Next Food Network Star’. Not only was Adam accepted, he ended up as the show’s runner up which provided him with the later show opportunities like those mentioned above as well as other shows like “The Best Thing I Ever Ate’ and his upcoming internet series, ‘Food Bites’ that recently completed filming.

While not traveling for these shows over the past four years, Adam’s obsession for BBQ, particularly those Texas links, re-manifested itself in the form of making sausages cured and then slowed cooked for 3 to 5 hours in a smoker stoked with hickory wood. He continues to experiment with his recipes, taking diligent notes, to improve his current array of products like “The Reuben Dog” made with pastrami spices, and introduce new ones like the new seasonal “Plymouth Rock Wurst” made with turkey, stuffing, yams, and whiskey soaked cranberries. The slow cooking process keeps the flavors from blending together with the meats until the products are sold for consumption. Plus for Adam this process gives his sausages that snap, juicy full flavor, and texture that makes anysausage a great sausage.

Adam is always coming up with new flavors for his hand made sausages like the Plymouth Rock Wurst. He has been selling these sausages at various pop up locations. The Plymouth Rock Wurst sold out at an election night event at Trip in Santa Monica. Adam uses these pop ups as test kitchens for a way to get immediate feedback and other R&D from potential customers. His celebrity from Food Network helped open doors to many of these pop up locations including at a major grocery which, in turn, has led to even additional opportunities like recent test sales for Gertler’s Wurst in that chain. Though Adam most likely will have to use this chain’s vendors if these sales occur, he sees this as a tremendous opportunity to establish his Gertler’s Wurst brand.

A brand Gertler wishes to further establish by getting back into the restaurant business with his brother Keith by giving his pop-up operation Gertler’s Kitchen it’s own home. The restaurant he envisions is a gastro pub featuring his sausages that, unlike other sausage and wurst concepts, will be made on the premises. Adam and his brother have put together a prospectus that is currently being presented to potential investors. Adam’s concept also looks to elevate the sausage into a higher check average product through better sourced meats and other fresh ingredients, plus interesting pairings with unexpected sides, wines and beers than what is normally associated with this comfort food not unlike many of the burger concepts have done with hamburgers.

By continuing to work as a host for food shows, establishing his products in both retail and restaurant locations, Adam foresees numerous opportunities to cross market and firmly establish himself as the Ben & Jerry of sausages. Maybe one day, Adam might be even able to get Anthony Bourdain to extol Gertler’s “encased meats in tube form” on one of Adam’s show in one of Adam’s restaurants.

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