Adam Gertler, former Amada waiter and executive chef of the now-closed Smoked Joint, was a finalist last season on The Next Food Network Star. While Gertler didn’t win the reality show (top honors went to another local, Aaron McCargo Jr. of Camden), his charming blend of comedy and culinary acumen landed him his own show. Will Work For Food, which follows Gertler as he takes on the toughest jobs in the food business, premiered last night, and we caught up with him to get his take on his new gig and, of course, Philly eats. Check out Gertler on Will Work For Food every Monday night at 8:30 p.m.
So you live in L.A. now. What do you miss most about Philly?
Yeah, I’m here filming the show. I love the weather, but I’m definitely an East Coast guy. And there’s nothing like the big-city, small-town feel of Philadelphia. Plus, all the best things that ever happened to me happened from Philly. And of course I miss the food.
How will your show Will Work For Food stand out from other food entertainment? What can viewers look forward to?
It’s not like anything else on Food Network. It’s got a sense of humor. I’m really in there doing these jobs, trying to do the best I can, and in some cases it doesn’t work out so well. Carving sculptures out of blocks of ice is hard.
On Next Food Network Star, in the episode when contestants had a culinary trivia contest, you helped your team by knowing that Iberico ham comes from pigs fed a diet of acorns, something you learned at Amada. What else in your experience there or at the Smoked Joint helped you go so far in the competition?
That was a great moment. Amada was one of the first restaurants in the country to serve Iberico ham, so all the staff was very well educated about it. I couldn’t believe that that was the question. Also, in the beginning of the contest, when I wasn’t doing so well, it’s because I was experimenting. When I started to do the things I knew well from cooking at the Smoked Joint, I started to do well. You’ve got to cook what’s in your bones. Another thing that really helped me was my experience with an improv group in Philly, Tongue & Groove. That really trains you to think on your feet.
What is your favorite and least favorite restaurant in Philadelphia?
Favorite? Monk’s. Love their mussels. I really crave those, and have to have them every time I come back. Least favorite? Chick-Fil-A. I don’t like chains.
Would you like to open another restaurant, and if so, where and what kind of restaurant would it be? Would you come back to Philly?
I would definitely like to do another restaurant. I learned so much from the Smoked Joint and then working at Amada. I’d like to do it again, the right way. And if I had the opportunity, I’d definitely do it in Philly. It’s my adopted hometown.