Chef Spotlight: Adam Lathan of THE GUMBO BROS in Brooklyn
Adam Lathan started cooking at a young age and creating the perfect pot of gumbo soon became his obsession. Having learned the "proper" gumbo technique from his great-grandmother Nanny, Adam is still pursuing the perfect gumbo and works tirelessly to ensure his customers have their culinary minds blown.
Adam's cooking has gone on to receive high praise from customers and press alike, having been positively reviewed and featured in: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Grubstreet, Eater and many other publications. Adam has been selected to cook at the Food Network's New York Food and Wine Festival for 3 consecutive years and has been a guest speaker at the New York Restaurant Show in 2017 and 2019.
Adam is a native of Mobile, Alabama, is a graduate of Louisiana State University, the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute) and a member of the James Beard Foundation.
When he isn't cooking, Adam is likely cheering for or talking about his beloved New Orleans Saints.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Adam about his career and The Gumbo Bros for our "Chef Spotlight feature."
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
I'd say I was mostly influenced by my dad. He's one of the few people I know who would much rather stay in for a meal as opposed to going out to a restaurant, so we would always cook at our house. That, coupled with growing up in Alabama, was a perfect mix for me. My hometown, Mobile, is on the Gulf of Mexico. With such great access to fresh seafood, wild game, and garden fresh vegetables, it's a wonderful place to experiment and learn to cook.
Who were some of your career mentors?
Chef Bradford Thompson was an instructor of mine at ICC (International Culinary Center) and continues to mentor me. He's a James Beard Award winner and has a ton of experience in fine dining and back of house management. I'd say he's the person that has helped me the most with day to day operations and has helped me transition from self-taught, homestyle cooking to a more refined style and professional setting.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
Obviously Cajun, Creole, and Southern cooking are my main passions and focus, but I find traditional French cooking to be something that influences me the more I study it. My wife and I are constantly cooking and experimenting with classic bistro fare at our place, and it's what we enjoy eating whenever we dine out.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
I try to be as true to my roots as possible when it comes to our menu. It's very tempting to try other things, make new recipes, and experiment in order to wow guests. But I found that people who come to our restaurant are looking for classic Cajun & Creole fare, which is nearly impossible to find in New York City. It's really gratifying to hear from our customers, especially those from the South, that our cooking reminds them of home. When we cater private, and in my own home, I like to go wild. But when it comes to Southern cuisine, I find that sticking to tried-and-true recipes beats over-experimentation.
What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is probably a classic Louisiana crawfish boil. There are a lot of people experimenting with different ways to do crawfish right now, but for me, I love a classic boil with spicy crawfish and an ice cold beer. We've brought this tradition to the restaurant and do a classic boil every Sunday when they're in season, usually April through June. We ship the crawfish fresh - never frozen - from Louisiana. It's become a wildly popular event, and we sell out every week!
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
My business partner and I met in college in Louisiana, and we were shocked that there wasn't as much Cajun and Creole food in New York when we moved here 8 years ago. We started small, with a stand at a food festival in Manhattan, and have grown into a full restaurant and caterer over the years serving gumbo, po'boys and other classics. We take a lot of pride in our food and try to "import" as many of our ingredients as possible (bread, beer, andouille sausage, crawfish, etc.) from Louisiana, Alabama and the rest of the deep South. We cater weddings, corporate events, and even do alligator roasts.
The Gumbo Bros is located at 224 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11201. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner from 11:30am - 9:00pm daily. They also have take-out, delivery, and catering. For more information and menus, visit: https://www.thegumbobros.com/ or call 917.909.1471. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Gumbo Bros