In an effort to raise awareness of their tableware AND the restaurants where it’s being used, Fortessa Tableware is hosting an influencer campaign Eat Good, Do Good. For the campaign, I was asked to meet up with one of the participating chefs, Chad Gauss of The Food Market.

Chef Chad on his food truck, The Food Truck 450

I’ve known Chad a few years now, his always packed restaurant – The Food Market – is in my neighborhood (Hampden) and is one of my favorite places. It’s consistently good…sort of comfort food with a modern flair. It’s food you know and understand made even better with Chad’s touch.

Chad and I met back in 2013 pretty much via Instagram. We traded soft crabs for some of my salted caramel brownies – how perfect is that? He ended up really liking the brownies and put them on the menu from time to time, which was always fun. When I started my chef series, Chewing the Fat – for Baltimore Fishbowl, he was my first interview in September 2014. Here it is. (Thanks, again, Chad!)

Was food a big part of your upbringing?
CG: I ate everything I could get my hands on. I never got up until my plate was cleared, but then it was only to get seconds!

Lots of kids get to choose the meal on their birthday…anything they want (to a point, I suppose…) What would be your ‘birthday meal’ now? What did you ask for when you were a kid? Hey – remember that both of us have moms named Peggy!
CG: I always loved Mexican food. You know, chicken fajitas and all that. Now, I want the most expensive thing I can afford. I like to go big for special occasions like birthdays.

You do a good amount of catering these days. Baltimore can be a pretty traditional food town, especially when it comes to catering. How do you get your catering clients to trust you and go with a little more creative menu?
CG: I like to use ingredients people know and understand. Some want elevated versions of the menu at The Food Market. Some just want really good comfort food. It’s really up to them, they’re the client.

Not a lot of people know you have a new private dining room downstairs. How do you plan to use it? How much does it cost to book it?
CG: We really haven’t marketed it at all and may not since it already has a little following on its own. People are booking it. To get to it, you have to go through the restaurant and the main kitchen, down the stairs, through the office, coolers, storage, etc. It’s definitely behind-the-scenes. Dinner for 12, cooked by me in the space with you and your guests. Cost is $100 per person, inclusive of food, drinks, service. It’s a good deal for what you get.

What food trend can you really not stand?
CG: I don’t like when people in the industry don’t want to give guests what they want. You can only push your agenda so far. Let the guests enjoy the experience and feel good about it.

How do you balance home and work? You have three young kids – that can’t be easy. I guess days off are big.
CG: When I’m home, I’m home. At work, at work. I have to prioritize. Whoever needs my attention, that’s where I am. With Wendi and the kids (11, 5, 2), it’s constant motion. Day trips, amusement parks, sports games, horse farm, eating out at restaurants, etc. We like to be active – and together.

Do you have time to watch any food tv? If so, are there any celebrity chefs you really enjoy?CG: No, I just don’t have the time or interest in food television. Yeah, some chefs. Like maybe Charlie Trotter was one. Also Thomas Keller and José Andrés.

What do you love about cooking?
CG: You can be an artist. Food makes people smile. You can tell a lot about a person by what they cook and what they eat.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in the city?
CG: The Prime Rib. Classic Baltimore. A steak and a big effing potato. I also love Aldo’s – having Aldo and Sergio make me a great dinner. That’s great. Let’s see…what else? Oh, the veal parmesan at DiPasquale’s, chicken fajitas at El Salto, steamed crabs at Conrad’s… (stops, thinks) and ordering off the dinner menu at lunch at Capital Grille, Maryland crab soup at Thames Street Oyster House and the #4 at Pho Dat Thanh.

Okay…obligatory…when you cook at home, what do you like to make?
CG: I just like to make my kids happy.

What do you love about Baltimore?
CG: I love that I understand Baltimore. The charm of Baltimore. And the fact that Baltimore will tell you how it is – not sugar coat it. And we’re the underdog. Gotta love the underdog. (I agree!)

For our dinner with Fortessa and Chad, my guest and I started with dirty martinis, one of my favorite drinks to order at The Food Market. I like mine a little dirtier (read: less vodka) and this dirty was perfect.

Then, we moved onto appetizers and went with oysters on the half-shell and Chad’s beet salad. Both were fab. I could eat both of those things almost daily! (I seem to eat oysters a lot…)

beet salad

Then, for my entree, I went for a crab cake, something I really don’t order out a lot (I’m super picky)…but Chad’s crab cake is always a treat and with asparagus and lobster mac ‘n cheese, it did not disappoint.

I almost never order dessert – I know, it’s weird – but this night we decided to go for the creme brûlée topped with fresh berries and it was devoured immediately.

Through the Finding Fortessa campaign, chefs are raising money for a charity that is special to them – and for Chad, it’s The Maryland Food Bank. Through the end of July, each time someone uses the hashtag #FindingFortessa, Fortessa Tableware will donate $5.00 to the Maryland Food Bank. GOOD STUFF, so please get on that! Tweet and Instagram it! Go to my Instagram (@charmcitycook) and regram my beet salad photo if you want. Or even better, take your own food photo at The Food Market and share using that hashtag, #FindingFortessa.

Thanks, again for the hospitality from Fortessa and The Food Market. We loved our meal, as always! Loved seeing the Fortessa tableware there, too.