Capital Chefs: Adam Sobel of Bourbon Steak (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of
‘Adam Sobel of Bourbon Steak’
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

Chef Adam Sobel describes his journey to the restaurant industry as one that came about naturally. He was drawn to cooking “like a moth to a light,” he says. “I was 4 or 5 years old and I would be messing around in the kitchen, making nasty concoctions as a joke,” he said. While I’m imagining a miniature Sobel standing over a mixing bowl combining ingredients from his parent’s pantry, he adds that he did indeed grow up to train at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Sobel says he was 18-years-old when he really got passionate and serious about cooking.

Prior to moving to DC to replace David Varley as executive chef at Bourbon Steak, Sobel worked in Las Vegas as executive chef at Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. “DC is like a different planet. It’s very unique–the feel, the people, the way things operate” he says. Frankly, I’m surprised Sobel isn’t more shell-shocked by the move (then again, maybe a cross-country move after living and working in Vegas is a breeze). Before accepting the role fo executive chef at Bourbon Steak, Sobel had several conversations with Varley, “I asked him, ‘Can I make an impact?’ I don’t want to just carry a torch that was already lit.”

Photo courtesy of
‘Adam Sobel preparing frozen cauliflower puree with squid ink’
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

Sobel’s excitement and energy in the kitchen certainly show that he’s poised to make an impact in DC.  Hearing him talk about food and about Bourbon Steak, I can see that Sobel isn’t about maintaining the status quo. Roughly a month into his job in DC, Sobel is planning far ahead: “We’ll be doing some unique and revolutionary things,” he says. Although mum’s the word on most of what he’s working on, he could share a few things with me. For example, Sobel intends to lighten up the menu a bit, include some more vegetables and brighter flavors. He also plans on bringing in new types of produce and herbs to grow in the restaurant’s garden. Don’t worry–by “lightening up” the menu, Sobel won’t be reducing the portion sizes at Bourbon Steak.

Surprisingly, Sobel says that there haven’t been too many challenges in his new job yet. He is like the poster-boy for grace under pressure, it seems. The most rewarding part for the chef has been the loyal customer base at Bourbon Steak. It’s encouraging to see local repeat guests who come to the restaurant two or even three times per week and are excited about the food and about promoting the restaurant, he says.

Another fortunate quality about Bourbon Steak that Sobel mentions is his ability to take the food in different directions. “There’s no boundary with the label of American fare,” he says. With a love and family history of making authentic Italian food, plus an interest in Asian street food and previous professional experience at a restaurant with a menu dominated by seafood, I’m anxious to see what Sobel does in the kitchen at Bourbon Steak and how he’ll make his own mark on the menu.

Check back at 1 pm for Sobel’s recipe for venison chili. If you’ve had it on one of their burgers or Bourbon Steak’s half-smokes, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on that.

Marissa was born and bred in New Jersey, but moved to DC for undergrad at GWU (Go Colonials, go!), fell in love with the District and learned that there was life and civilization beyond New York City. She loves eating at white-tablecloth-three-forks-at-your-place-setting restaurants, but she’ll also be the first to suggest we scarf down some chili dogs at 2 am. Simply put, she loves all things food. You can also read about why she loves DC. Follow her on Twitter and email her at mbialecki (at)

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