Chef Kevin Adey’s work with pasta at Faro is much beloved. His slogan of “Earth-Wheat-Fire” pays homage to how seriously he works with the ingredients and techniques that make up the bucatini, gnocchetti, tonnarelli, and other pastas on his menu. It’s a menu so well-received that it recently earned a Michelin star — an honor bestowed upon only two restaurants in Bushwick this year.
But pasta isn’t the only place where he operates with integrity. To Adey, being the chef and owner of his own space means that integrity has to work its way into every seam in order for him to succeed.
It all started with placing Faro where he lives — in Bushwick — since he knew that chefs’ grueling hours and the potential disasters that await an owner day and night could cripple the spirit of even the strongest chef-partner combo. Then it was about making the kind of food he really wanted. “I wanted to own a restaurant serving ten different pastas, with this great vibe that was all about the food,” Adey tells the Voice. “When you’re forced into something, it’s never going to feel as good as if you wanted to do it.”
The next piece of the puzzle was finding a way to use ingredients that would show respect for the people who provide them — and for the earth. For the pastas, organic grains are sourced from upstate New York. Vegetables are organic and sourced locally, too. But the biggest triumph comes in how Adey uses whole animals. It’s not an uncommon practice nowadays for chefs in New York, and Adey was among many others who would buy shares of large animals so as to cut down on the quantity killed yearly. He then challenged himself to take his commitment to sustainably raised meat one step further.
“Four or five years ago, I decided to raise a pig myself and kill it myself, to see if I could do it and still eat meat,” he says. “I did it, and it was extremely difficult and life changing. I realized that it’s hard, hard work to be a farmer. At that point I made a decision to be a whole animal guy. How can I pick and choose these parts of my beliefs?”
In this regard, putting rose veal on the menu is a triumph. Adey explains that commodity veal comes from baby male cows ripped early from their mothers, who are needed for milk production. “They immediately get shipped off to some terrible place. It’s animal abuse, it’s terrible, and they become veal you see in terrible stores and restaurants,” he says. Rose veal, however, comes from baby male cows who are kept with their mothers, drinking milk and grazing on hay and grass for 13–18 months before being humanely slaughtered. Because male cows aren’t milkers (and therefore have no other monetary value than their meat), it’s important for chefs like Adey to absorb the higher cost for the better product.
“For me, this is the pinnacle of sustainability: to support farms like this, and to keep an animal from the worst fucking possible conditions,” he says. “I’m a huge animal advocate. The farm I buy from is Animal Welfare Certified. And I’ve been there. I’ve seen the way he treats the animals, and they couldn’t ask for a better life. That’s what I’m so super proud to be serving now.”
Adey recognizes breaking down whole animals is a lot of hard work, and that it takes time, and trial and error, to know how to do well. (His grandmother was a butcher, but she died young: “I think she’d be [pretty proud] of me,” he notes.) His education came in the form of practice and repetition, working with sides of beef, pork, grinding poorly-cut parts into hamburger meat. “You’re given 300 pounds of meat, and you have to put it to work,” he says. “You’re getting bones and fat, and they all cost the same as the meat, so you have to know what to do with that.”
Altogether, that intricate sourcing means that any given ingredient can take center stage on the plate at Faro.
“My cooking is ingredient driven,” he explains. “It always starts from a thing. I’ll walk through the farmer’s market and see a turnip: We then focus on that ingredient. We do turnips with duck, black garlic, and cherries. The turnips are presented raw, roasted, the greens, and a puree. We put the most attention on the turnip. The duck is the foil to the turnip, and the cherry and black garlic accent it. We are very ingredient-driven, seasonal American food.”
The final part of Adey’s incidental integrity program is how he runs his kitchen. His father is a teacher and a football coach. While Adey mostly majored in “lacrosse and alcohol and girls” in college, he was technically in line to follow as a teacher, too. Today, “making people better at what they do through experience is the highlight of my day,” he says. “I’m really proud of the kids who work for me who then have gone on to become chefs…. They’re getting the shit kicked out of them. When you see a cook become a sous chef, it makes me happy. It really does.”
Being a teacher means sometimes coaxing cooks out of the restaurant world, too: He’s encouraged amazing cooks who don’t want to be chefs to leave his kitchen to follow their dreams of being full-time filmmakers or musicians instead.
“I listen to this motivation tape every morning,” he says. “The first thing it says is that no one’s gonna help you with your dream. That’s not how it works. You have to fucking struggle and work every day to make your dreams come true. I like to be the voice to say, ‘Why are you still here? Go do what you want to do.’ It’s a terrible life if you don’t want to be a chef. You eat shit for ten years. You lose every friend you’ve ever had. You don’t go to weddings or birthday parties. You have to sacrifice to be a chef. So if you don’t want to be a chef, don’t do it! Close your eyes, picture what you want, and go do it! It’s a big part of how I run this place.”
Integrity. With attitude.