The first thing you may notice about Miami Chef Adrianne Calvo is that she’s pretty laid back. While many successful chefs have a reputation for controlling, Type-A personalities, Calvo appears to be the anti-Ramsay–but you wouldn’t know it from her drive to create a multi-sensory dining experience for the masses. You may also notice is that she’s only 27 years old.
Wise beyond her years, Calvo focuses her “flavor-defining” efforts on her restaurant, Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar, on her Maximum Flavor product line, on promoting and creating cookbooks and through her cooking segments on NBC 6 in Miami.
Calvo’s one-woman flavor mission started when she was just a teenager.
Self described as “a fat kid who would just wait around for dinner,” Chicago-born Calvo started her culinary career at the age of 12 by baking chocolate chip cookies and selling them at school. Later, as a 17 year-old phenom, she entered a national pastry competition at Johnston & Wales University despite having no formal culinary training. She still took home the bronze medal. Eventually international cooking competitions became her bread and butter because, as she says, “culinary school is very expensive and I needed to make ends meet.”
Despite her 20-plus successes in international competitions, Calvo still has something to prove. She’s slated on this season of Chopped, a cutthroat Food Network competition where three chefs cook with a haphazard selection of ingredients, as they are eliminated course by course until one winner prevails. While she couldn’t divulge the outcome of the show, Calvo is crystal clear on how great it felt to return to the “normalcy” of her own kitchen. “Chopped was a pretty outrageous experience.”
The normalcy she speaks of is the kitchen at Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant, Calvo’s off the beaten path eatery in the Hammocks neighborhood of Miami, a location that she purposefully planned. “We aren’t a see and be seen type of place. People come to our restaurant because they want to come to a neighborhood place for flavorful, good food.”
The menu inspiration is Calvo’s love affair with Napa Valley— a fascination that started with Chef Thomas Keller’s cookbooks, and later, whose flames were fueled by a trip to Napa and a three-week internship under Keller himself at French Laundry.
“My goal is to give my diners a multi-sensory experience. It’s not just about how the food tastes, it’s about the presentation and atmosphere too.” Calvo says while she has respect for students of the molecular gastronomy movement, she won’t be injecting or freeze-drying her food anytime soon because, “food shouldn’t be a science experiment, people just don’t crave that type of food.”
What they do crave is flavorful food which was the impetus behind Calvo’s “dark dining” dinners. During these dark dinners, people sit blindfolded while they eat their meal. “The point is to take the expectation away from what the food should taste like and allow people to actually savor the food,” says Calvo. Champagne is one of her favorite examples of the play on senses since, “champagne smells just like white wine, but when you aren’t expecting the bubbles, it can be a huge boost for your taste buds.”
The wine menu at Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant—big surprise here—is solely from California. But that may change soon. Calvo likes to find wines from places that aren’t as commercially known and expose her customers to them. “Lately, I’ve been really into Greek wines. They aren’t known as well, but are really interesting.”
Dark Dining dinners are held the third Wednesday of every month. More details about Dark Dining and Calvo’s product line can be found on Calvo’s website. 11510 SW 147 Avenue Miami, FL 33196 . Tel: (305) 408-8386.