If you’ve attended some of our past Friends of the Café Dinner events, you may have seen Adam Evans’ face in our kitchen, working beside both Frank Stitt and Rob McDaniel. A constant student of his craft, he was quoted as saying, “Any time you get a chance to work with someone who is the master of what he does, you should seize that opportunity. Maybe it’s a new technique you discover—whatever it is, you’re getting the experience in a shorthand version. You take something from each chef, learn it and then interpret it in your own way.” Luckily for us, Adam has graciously agreed to lead his very own team for the next event in our series, once again benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Though he has worked with some of the most talented chefs in America and earned numerous accolades, Adam Evans was born and raised right here in the Shoals. Family time in the kitchen—cooking fish caught in local waters or vegetables from his grandfather’s garden—fostered his love of seafood and fresh ingredients. Adam graduated cum laude from Auburn University in 2002 with a degree in psychology, but he ultimately found his calling while working summer jobs in local restaurants. After graduation, he began working as chef’s apprentice at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama.
Shortly thereafter, Adam moved to New Orleans, working for the Brennan family at Bacco before earning a spot at La Petite Grocery in 2004, when the restaurant earned an esteemed “Four-Bean” review in the Times-Picayune. In May of the following year, Adam moved to New York City, becoming sous chef at Craft—Tom Colicchio’s flagship restaurant. He was sent back south again to open Craft Atlanta/Craftbar where, as chef de cuisine, he established a Southern-inspired menu that focused on local ingredients. During his time at Craftbar, the restaurant received a four-star review from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was named Best New Restaurant by Atlanta Magazine.
Eventually, Adam moved on to work with Chef Ford Fry at JCT. Kitchen & Bar (where he was named a StarChefs Atlanta Rising Star), and was quickly chosen to open Fry’s highly anticipated seafood restaurant, The Optimist. He brought to The Optimist years of experience with seafood—including the fish he caught as a child and the bounty of fresh fish and shellfish he worked with in New Orleans. At The Optimist, Adam built relationships with Gulf Coast fisheries and emphasized use of sustainable seafood, sourced responsibly.
In its first year, The Optimist was listed by Bon Appetit as one of America’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants and Esquire Magazine named it Restaurant of the Year. During his time as chef, The Optimist received an impressive number of accolades from publications like Food & Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Adam was nominated for Food & Wine’s “People’s Best New Chef” in 2015 and earned a nod as Best Seafood Restaurant in the U.S. from Travel + Leisure.
Most recently, Adam joined restaurateur Jonathan Waxman as chef-partner at Waxman’s first Atlanta eatery, Brezza Cucina—a new venture in Ponce City Market. The restaurant focuses on seasonal dishes in a rustic, Italian style.