In the kitchen with…

Adam Marcum
of The Rustic Goat

By Amy Newman

“Food is love for me,” says Adam Marcum, executive chef of The Rustic Goat. “The more confident you are, the more excited you are, the better your food tastes. You can feel that.”

Adam’s love affair with food began in his mother’s kitchen. But it was his participation in the West Anchorage High School culinary arts program that set him on the road to becoming a chef, particularly a talk by one of the chef-instructors on the realities of life as a chef.

“He said, ‘You’re the life of the party; you work late,’ ” Adam recalls. “It intrigued me. From there I was convinced it was what I wanted to do.”

A late-night commercial for the Colorado Art Institute enticed him to jump on a plane bound for Denver. He completed only 3 1/2 years at the culinary arts program – “The big city was a little bit different from what I’d expected,” he says – but the experience, along with an 18-month apprenticeship at a local restaurant, taught him the basics of what he needed to know.

After returning to Anchorage in 2009, Adam worked a variety of cooking jobs – at fine dining restaurants, an alehouse, on the slope, and even on a tugboat that crawled up and down the Yukon for six months – before the owners of The Rustic Goat asked him to open the restaurant as its executive chef. He jumped at the opportunity. And though he admits it was – and sometimes still is – overwhelming, challenging himself is part of what he loves about being a chef.

“That’s always been the excitement of this job for me,” he says. “Every day you learn something new.”

For Adam, learning about food is always a constant, whether it’s a new cooking technique or an inspired way to serve the comfort food that is the core of his cooking. “I like the idea of something that’s familiar but not quite what you’re used to,” he says. One example is his modern twist on the bleu cheese salad. Adam grills romaine hearts to develop a light char, then adds a bacon shallot jam and a tangy, homemade bleu cheese dressing that cuts through the sweetness of the jam. “It’s simplicity, and it’s not something you see every day,” he says.

One of Adam’s favorite ingredients is cauliflower, a versatile vegetable that is usually given short-shrift at the dinner table. But Adam likes to feature it prominently – from a cauliflower porridge to a flatbread made with cauliflower, almonds and another favorite, flax seed. “I like to play with things that aren’t really normal, or that you don’t really see every day,” he says. “That is sort of the fun for me.”

Adam celebrated a year at The Rustic Goat on February 17 – his 27th birthday – and says he has set the bar high for himself. He’d like to eventually make his own charcuterie, maybe even own a farm with some cows and chickens so he can make his own cheese and have fresh eggs.

But for now, he’s content to build his empire and keep moving forward as a chef.

“I’ll never hit where I want to be,” he says. “But I’m going to work as hard as I can to get as close as I can.”