Charm City Cook and Baltimore Fishbowl writer Amy Langrehr has come to know a good number of chefs in town since she started writing about food a few years back. In our new series, Chewing the Fat, she’ll interview local top chefs for Baltimore Fishbowl Weekend. First up: Chad Gauss of The Food Market in Hampden.
I first met Chad Gauss via social media. We traded some of my Charm City Cook salted caramel brownies for fresh soft crabs via Instagram. Seriously, that’s how we met. He opened The Food Market in my neighborhood a little over two years ago and it’s been a huge hit since day one. I’m a big fan. As we texted to figure out when and where to do the interview (chefs text, they don’t really email…), we decided not to do it at the restaurant. He texted me: Rofo, 2nd Fl. So, here we sit at the Royal Farms store at 36th & Roland, the scent of fried chicken wafting up the stairs…
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 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 absolutely 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.