Adam Dietrich is passionate about food. He calls North Carolina home, but he’s a native Floridian. He’s also a chef and food safety instructor. While at home in his kitchen (his favorite room of the house) in Newell he spoke to us about the joy of cooking, dangerous food myths and living his best life with his partner and three dogs (May, June and August) on their farm in the University City Neighborhood he lives in.
Even at home, Adam is clothed in a pair of chef pants and kitchen Crocs with bananas on them. He said his pants are “Black and white stripes, they make me look taller and my black shirt makes me look skinnier – that’s what I’m going for, taller and skinnier.”
Having met Adam Dietrich, two things are certain – he has an awesome sense of humor and he looks like he’s living his dream, at peace, doing what he loves. Adam’s passion for cooking began at a young age.
“I started working in a hotel in St. Pete beach when I was 15 years old,” Dietrich recalls. “I was cooking and making salads at the Sea Porch Café in the Don Cesar Beach Resort and Spa.”
He points to his family as the impetus behind his career in food and cooking. “I like to eat and my parents are both notoriously, terrible cooks,” he laughs. “The only reason they had a kitchen is because it was built into the house.”
Dietrich has resided in Charlotte for 17 years. It’s been almost two decades since the witty and candid culinary artist moved to Charlotte from Charleston, South Carolina, by way of St. Petersburg, Florida.
And it’s a good thing too, because Charlotte has plenty of QT Gas stations – Dietrich’s first stop for the one food he could eat continuously and forever if there weren’t anything else. His guilty pleasure? “Egg roles from the QT Gas station. They’re so damn good! I put on a disguise when I go in there, I’m so embarrassed about it, but I love those damn things. I had four yesterday. It is what it is. I’m living my truth.”
Adam Dietrich attended Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina. When the campus closed in 2005 and shortly after reopened in Charlotte, Adam moved to the Queen City, where he shares his life with his partner Tim.
The two have been partnered for nine years. “Tim is wonderful – so supportive of all the things I want to do [and] my ideas. I’m an idea guy and he is the sounding board and the support. He grounds me. When you’re a personality like me, you need someone to ground you and tell you when you’re just being ridiculous.”
Currently, Dietrich owns his own company, Expo – where he trains restaurant professionals in food safety and sanitation. “In particular, a program call ServSafe, which is required for restaurant managers and chefs. It’s required by the NC health department for them to have this certification. I also teach [at] Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in their Corporate and Continuing Education Program. It’s a passion project. I created a class, along with my boss at the college. It’s a 10-week class for adults looking to get into the food service industry but have no skills that the industry is looking for. I give students entry level jobs skills for food service, then we find them employment and then mentor them for two years.”
For QNotes readers with a devotion to culinary art, Dietrich shares his best holiday cooking tip, something his students and budding chefs in his CPCC program know well.
“Re-heat your left-overs to 165 degrees,” he explains. “Typically, around the holidays we eat, have a big family gathering and the food sits out. If there’s a small amount of bacteria present and food sits out [unrefrigerated] the bacteria can grow to an unsafe level.
“You can get very sick from consuming just a small amount of bacteria,” cautions Dietrich. “Most folks can accept that. [But] no one wants to end the holidays in the hospital from consuming unsafe food.”
That’s a fact, though everything you might think you know about food and food safety isn’t. That considered, Dietrich offers to put to rest a myth that seems leave him vexed.
The myth: you should wash your chicken. “You should not wash your chicken,” he says matter-of-factly. “What are you doing with water that heat is not going to do for you? Washing your chicken will only spread the bacteria around your kitchen. Water splashes.
“However,” he laughs, “if you wanna’ wash chicken, have at it. I’m not coming in and telling anyone’s mama or grandma that they’re doing things the wrong way. But don’t walk into a professional kitchen and wash some chicken. They’ll laugh you right out of there.”
Unwashed chicken aside, we wanted to know what Dietrich’s favorite holiday dish is. When it comes to what he enjoys eating, without hesitation and right in line with the season he said, “Pumpkin Pie.” When it comes to cooking though, it might surprise you to learn it’s brussel sprouts. “My in-laws have always requested my bacon braised brussel sprouts.” His secret ingredient, which apparently makes his dish so popular, is a simple but unexpected one: vanilla extract.
In the spirit of the season, Dietrich shared some words of advice for culinary entrepreneurs: “Set small goals that lead to larger goals. Dream big dreams and pursue them with intensity.”
That’s great advice for us all, no matter what the chosen field or profession.