WakeMed is pleased to welcome Executive Chef, Adam Smith, to the team!
Below, we did a little Q&A where Chef Adam chatted with us about his culinary background, entertained some fun questions, talked candidly about what inspired him to become a chef, and shared his hopes for how his new role at WakeMed will impact others.
Q&A with Chef Adam
Tell us a little about your background.
I’m a Raleigh, NC native. I graduated from Millbrook High School. From there, I went to Wake Tech Community College and then the American Culinary Federation.
Do you listen to music while cooking?
I do! I love listening to jazz music when I cook.
What’s your go-to comfort food?
Good old vegetable soup. It reminds me of my childhood.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
When people give up. If people allow failure to be an option, they will fail.
Do you have a favorite dish that you enjoy preparing?
I love Italian food. It’s my go-to when I need to be inspired.
Have you always wanted to be a chef? What first inspired you to join this profession?
I’ve never wanted to do anything else actually! My inspiration came at the age of 14 when I got my first cooking job at a breakfast diner cooking omelets and washing dishes.
Shortly after this, I got a job at a local country club and met my soon-to-be-mentor, Mark Turner (who’s now the Executive Chef at Duke). I served as his apprentice, learning the in’s and outs of everything.
How long have you been a chef?
What was your earliest memory of cooking?
My earliest memory was of my mother and I making meatloaf, spaghetti, and lasagna. I was maybe five years-old at the time. I loved helping her in the kitchen even then.
Name some of the highlights of your career thus far.
I was recently named Chef of the Year from the American Culinary Federation, and am a 12-time medalist in their Sanctioned Culinary Competition. I was also named Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Administrator through the American Culinary Federation, and I’m a Globally Certified Chef through the World Association of Chef Societies.
What’s one challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your profession?
I suffer from two incurable auto immune diseases, and I’ve spent countless nights in the hospital (most of which were right here at WakeMed). It has taken me years to get my health on the right track, and I can finally say that I am healthy and happy. I’m very excited to be on this side of the hospital; providing food to our staff and our patients is very personal to me.
What does your typical day at WakeMed look like?
I come in around 7 am and leave as soon as I know that the staff and patients are well taken care of and we are ready to roll in the back of the house.
WakeMed has a very talented chef team that is responsible for writing the menu for their specific area. I typically look through their menus and offer suggestions or insight that might help from a flavor or execution standpoint. There is also a team of managers and dietitians that help plan menus, and solicit feedback. It is very much a team effort.
What goes into planning a meal for a hospital system? How is it different from other types of culinary professions?
We have to keep health and wellness top of mind. Food is medicine in every since of the meaning. Keeping our hospital staff and patients fed well is very fundamental in how well they perform or heal.
It’s our duty to the patients to provide healthy, transparent meals that offer proper nutrition along with outstanding flavors.
Working in a hospital is not any different to me that working in a 5 star restaurant. At the end of the day we all want happy guests. That’s what its all about.
How do you account for all of the different types of food allergies and other health conditions that people may have?
Our team of dietitians and chefs carefully inspect labels to identify any allergy concerns that may need to be addressed. We then work with our cooks to make sure that they do not deviate from our recipes.
Proper training about cross contact, proper hand washing and station sanitation is also key to providing allergy free meals. We take this very seriously.
What do you hope to achieve here in your career at WakeMed? What’s next?
I want to make our patients, staff and guests happy with every meal we are lucky enough to serve them. I want to help to achieve a culture of greatness in our Food and Nutrition Department, and I want to help create our next generation of great chefs.
What does it mean for you to now call WakeMed home?
WakeMed has a very special place in my heart.
I got my first set of stitches here after my first kitchen accident with a knife. My twin daughters were born here and spent almost 3 weeks in the NICU… My son was born here… My father was diagnosed with cancer here, and I have spent over 300 nights and had 45 surgeries in this hospital.
I feel like it has become my calling to make sure that I take care of the patients and our hospital staff.
I really feel like I’m supposed to be here, and it’s my responsibility to do my best to make our patients, their guests, and our staff happy with every meal.
This is a very purposeful job, and I am lucky to have found a home here at WakeMed.
About Adam Smith, Executive Chef, WakeMed
Chef Adam officially joined the WakeMed team as Executive Chef on January 14, 2019. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC and is a single dad to three wonderful children: 5-year-old twin girls, Carlie and Mckenzie, and 8-year-old son, Cameron. When Chef Adam isn’t cooking, he enjoys fishing, yard work, and building things.