Charlie Abowd of Adele’s
- any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.
- strong amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor.
Passion is truly a word that describes Chef Charlie Abowd’s life of food.
I was lucky enough to spend a few hours chatting with the chef about his life and career.
A Family Legacy
Charlie’s tenure in the food business started at an early age. The grandson of Lebanese immegrants, he cut his teeth in kitchens of the bay area in the early 70′s. His father, renowned chef Paul Abowd, worked with the likes of Alice Waters and Jerimiah Tower in their younger years. These folks changed the food world with California cuisine and Charlie had a front row seat.
The family operated restaurants throughout the bay area before moving over the hill to Carson City for a better quality of life. At the time, Charlie went into the construction business seeking a different path. He brought together the crew that built Adele’s, named after his mother, in Carson City at the same site it sits today.
The Early Years
He shared stories of working at “Original Joe’s” in San Francisco as a teenager. His father told him, “You can’t be a chef unless you know how to cook breakfast.” The waitresses would shout orders into the kitchen. No tickets, nothing on paper. It was up to Charlie to keep each order cooking correctly. This was the old school training that most chefs nowadays miss out on.
As a young man, Charlie wasn’t sure if he was cooking out of his desire or because it was simply the family business. That prompted him to get into construction and look into building a new career. He moved on from the building trades and migrated the family to Seattle.
In Seattle, he worked for a bank operating restaurants that were in bankruptcy. He was tasked with turning them around and setting them on the right path. No doubt this brought the needed education on the financial end of the restaurant business. But it wasn’t always about dollars. He talked of mornings spent shopping at the Pike Place Market and fishing in the bay for salmon from his small boat.
Back to Nevada
His father had decided to expand the family empire and invited Charlie back to Nevada to run Adele’s. At the time, his father came to Reno to open Adele’s at the Plaza and Peg’s Glorified Ham and Eggs. He kept the family’s vision of a classic restaurant swathed in lace and textured linens while adding a bit of his style to the menu.
It’s hard to not talk about the Abowd family as a whole, even when trying to focus on Charlie. His father still operates the Stonehoue Cafe in Reno, his cousin is well known for breakfast at the Cracker Box in Carson.
At his current home he has had the pleasure of cooking at the James Beard House, a story that can only be told through the DVD they had made to recount the trip. His restaurant also serves as the go to spot for Nevada’s politicians, lobbyists and high heeled visitors from the capitol building just blocks away.
The dining room is a welcome step back in time. Covered in rich woods, elegant upholstery and lace tablecloths the room has a very welcoming feel that is missing from so many eateries these days. The menu is just as you would expect from a man with his history, lots of California cuisine inspiration with a touch of character that comes from growing up in the happening 60′s and 70′s of the bay area.
Charlie insisted on cooking for me when I arrived (not that I was complaining). He was busy canning a batch of fresh made heirloom tomato marinara with mushrooms as I enjoyed his fare.
The crab cake was absolutely divine. Not loaded with mayonnaise and eggs, the chunky crab meat was pleasantly still in whole pieces. Nice and crisp on the outside and warm and luscious in the middle.
An Italian sausage sandwich, served open faced on focaccia, was smothered in the house made marinara. On the side was a beautifully segmented heirloom tomato topped with crisp red onion and drizzled with herbs and olive oil.
For dessert, I was told that I HAD TO HAVE crepes. And I’m glad that I did. A mixed berry and a raspberry crepe were each presented with rich cream, a sprinkle of powdered sugar and some of the best berries I’ve had this summer.
In his own words “I don’t take myself too seriously. I hope someday I can feed people who NEED to eat, not just those that want to.”
Many thanks to Chef Charlie Abowd for the hospitality! Now, it’s your turn to visit them and experience a bit of history. Say hi to Charlie, he’ll be glad to see you.