cinder house at the four seasons st. louis courtesy of cinder house

Get to know Cinder House's new chef de cuisine Josh Adams

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There’s a new chef in town. Cinder House, the acclaimed restaurant at the Four Seasons in downtown St. Louis, recently welcomed chef de cuisine Josh Adams, who will work closely with James Beard Award-winning executive chef Gerard Craft to conceptualize new menu items while continuing to push the envelope of fine dining in the Midwest.

“It’s Gerard’s overall vision, but I make sure it’s executed properly,” said Adams, a two-time James Beard semifinalist. “The sous chefs and I come up with dishes and run them by him, but he gives us a lot of creative freedom. We don’t always agree, but we usually have similar minds and palates.”

Craft recently returned from a research and development trip to Brazil, and Adams has been hitting the books.

“We all know ceviche, but when you really get into it, South American cuisine is so interesting with tons of depth,” he said. “My family had Brazilian exchange students when I was young, so I learned a bit then, but there’s so much more to know. I’ve got a mountain of books that I’ve been reading and researching.”

Although the majority of new dishes are still in the works, Adams said a recent market fish special will likely become a mainstay on the menu in January.

“It has wood-roasted fennel and aji verde, then it’s slowly roasted over embers. There’s also toasted quinoa and finger lime – they’re little Australian limes, like lime caviar – and candied fennel seed,” Adams said. “It’s more Peruvian than Brazilian, but, while we do focus heavily on Brazil, we do a lot of different stuff from South American cuisines."

Adams utilizes the expertise he garnered being raised on 150 acres of certified organic farmland and builds dishes around fresh produce, rather than protein, as many chefs do.

“For instance, the aji verde special was built around the fennel,” he explained. “There’s multiple elements of the plant – you can pickle the stems. I like to use everything, from root to top. The fish is clean and doesn’t overshadow the other flavors, it accentuates them.”

Cooking has been a part of Adams’ life for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve only eaten fast food once or twice in my life,” he said. “I’ve always cooked a lot, but I didn’t see it as a job until later. I was big into drawing and art as a kid, so seeing cooking combined with art was a big bolt of lightning moment for me.”

Adams, who has known Craft through the national culinary scene for about a decade, said he was at a crossroads in his life when the Cinder House opportunity arose.

“I was in Nashville doing a charity event and Gerard was there,” Adams said. “We had fallen out of touch the last couple years, but we reconnected there. About two weeks later, he called and asked if I could come to St. Louis to help. ... I really enjoy the people I work with. There’s a lot of talent in the kitchen, and they make me feel like I fit in. Everybody is passionate about what they’re doing and bringing Gerard’s vision to life.”

Lauren Healey is associate editor at Sauce Magazine.