Chef Smith Brings Great Food & Creativity To Toulouse, Chequers
People say things should be quiet when an artist is at work.
While the winter may have been quiet for Restaurant Toulouse, at 248 Culver St., and its sister hotspot Chequers, 220 Culver St. in Saugatuck – it is all for a good reason.
Chef Adam Smith has been at work incorporating his culinary prowess, honed through nearly 40 years in the business, into the careful and artful redesign of the entire spring menu with beauty, selection and high quality, farm-fresh ingredients in mind.
“I’m really trying to push in doing one of my best menus I’ve ever done,” Chef Smith said of the fine dining experience he is creating for Toulouse. “It’s all going to be brand new, but I might keep the cassoulet, with beans and pork and duck and sausage because it has been a favorite here for years. But I’m going to bring in some new things. I’m really going to try to excel the menu and get the restaurant back on the map.”
Smith appears to be just the chef for the job.
He started in the culinary business as a teenager washing dishes and cooking in various Lansing restaurants during high school. The East Lansing native cut his teeth as a cook, moving on to Red Lobster and other area establishments.
In 1981, he moved to Grand Rapids and started his passion for making food from scratch. Working at the Amway Grand Plaza in 1984, he learned from - and was inspired by - chefs who came from all over the world.
Smith graduated from culinary school in 1997 and moved to Traverse City where he worked in “a few great restaurants”.
He moved back about a decade ago to be with family and has worked at Phil’s Bar and Grille, Butch’s Dry Dock Restaurant and at The Piper.
“My passion for cooking from scratch is the healthiest route. I’d also like to work with as much local food as possible, including meats, goat cheese, fruits and vegetables,” Smith said. “I think using food that goes from the farm to the table is very valuable and it helps the community, helps the local economy.
“I have worked closely with several French chefs and have always had a love for French foods,” says Smith, who now lives on the south side of Holland. “Julia Child is one of my favorites, as well as Jacques Pépin. I have about 200 to 300 cookbooks, including a signed Julia Child’s book, which I cherish.”
The books are a great resource when it comes to planning menus, such as those Smith is designing for Toulouse and Chequers.
“Building new menus, for me, is like going back to school. I like making everything from scratch, from making dressing all the way to cutting my own meats and creating some amazing pairings. This industry is a never-ending learning process because of the ever-changing foods, trends and processes.”
Smith says he is eager to focus on the increasingly popular farm-to-table foods since there is great value as a chef in being able to look at foods before buying them, instead of having food shipped from California or other states or countries.
Smith hopes to design menus that would appeal to discerning customers who enjoy upscale restaurants such as those in Chicago or New York.
“You want to try to draw a crowd that is used to that kind of cuisine, but not make it so foreign so that everyone can still understand the menu,” he said. “If you don’t understand the item of food on the menu, you probably won’t order it.”
Although Smith would give few hints about what restaurant goers may find on the all-new menus, he did share one secret: “I love working with fresh sea scallops. I also want to work with trout and local, Great Lakes salmon.”
Still “mulling through ideas” and finalizing the new spring menus, Smith said he hopes to hit all of the bases for steak, seafood, chicken and offering a variety to please everyone – even appealing to the children’s menu as well.
“If you can please everyone in the family, you can keep people coming back.”
Smith says he loves eating, which has kept up his passion as a chef.
“There’s so much to experiment with,” said Smith. “When you satisfy the customers and they were wowed by the food and they come back, it is so gratifying. You feel like you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. You go home and feel good about what you did. I believe in putting in the best effort to please someone with their dining experience.”
The business can be a great challenge to chefs, owners, servers and others. Chef Smith is working very hard, giving his best effort to really make a positive experience all around.
“My husband is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met,” said Nancy Smith, Chef Smith’s wife, “He’s a working chef. He’ll do anything for anybody in any part of the restaurant if it’s going to help the restaurant run more smoothly. He’s so passionate about cooking and helping people. His flavorings and his presentation are amazing. These new menus use his best creativity ever.”
Chequers has been in town for nearly 24 years, specializing today in offering a variety of craft beers featuring several local breweries, along with mouth-watering English pub food.
Smith has started implementing programs in hiring and training people from the city mission as he is a believer in giving people a second chance.
Visit Restaurant Toulouse and Chequers online and on Facebook, or call for information: (269) 857-1561.