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A Passion for Cooking

Adam Reed of Sante

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As the owner and Executive Chef of Sante, Adam Reed attributes his cooking style and his culinary ambitions to his familial French roots and influences. Growing up in a French family that included a long line of French chefs, Reed wound up creating food that he describes as, "American style cuisine with French influences, like me in a way, an American with French influences."

As a child and teenager, Reed cooked for his family and was greatly influenced by his grandmother.

"One of the first things I ever learned to cook was "coq au vin,' and that is still one of my favorites to this day."

Originally from New York, Reed attended Manhattan College and obtained a degree in business management. It was during this time that Reed also apprenticed at Rene Porjel's, a two-star restaurant in the theater district. "I treated Rene Porjel's as my school... it was the core education of classical French cuisine and preparation. I tried to make myself as valuable, or as invaluable, as possible, and show as much interest as possible, and tried to learn and absorb as much as I could."

After coming in early every morning to work with the pastry chefs, staying late to work with the evening chefs, all while juggling college and a night job to pay the bills, Reed was offered a staff position as Rene Porjel's butcher.

"To get that job was amazing because you don't give that to somebody just starting out. You don't know where to stick the knife."

Working his way up the ranks in smaller establishments like Tattoo's and Lebano's, Reed eventually found himself working at The Russian Tea Room. During his two-year period at the legendary restaurant, he started out at a saute station and ended as Sous Chef to Executive Chef Paul Ingenito.

Once his daughter was born, Reed and his wife decided the city wasn't where they wanted to raise a child and answered a want ad for a chef, posted in the New York Times.

Seven years later, Sante's small space is tucked between stores lining Trade Street in the small town of Matthews, but there are big things going on inside.

Reed's first task when opening Sante was developing a fairly extensive wine list primarily based on his personal palate. The list has become one he now dubs "a seven on a scale of one to ten."

"First of all, I started drinking wine at a very young age, because in a French family like mine...it was just encouraged, whether it was legal or not. Ah, I started drinking wine when I was like 11, and I was interested in food, and they go hand in hand."

As a featured chef at Matthews Farmers' Market, Reed can also demonstrate his baking skills; his broad knowledge of classic French pastries is one of his greater joys -- especially the consumption of them.

"People always ask me, what is your specialty? As if they're expecting one dish to ring out... that is like picking between your children. You just can't. They are all unique and they are all wonderful."

With just a dishwasher and someone to help out "only when it gets really busy," Reed's dedication and attention to every dish is apparent.

Aside from cooking and attending classes at Winthrop University two nights a week to earn a masters in business management, Reed spends time with his family.

Any advice for those aspiring to pursue a career in culinary arts? Reed says, "This is a difficult industry -- you really have to be passionate about food for it to be enjoyable; when you are passionate about something, you learn in a different way and it consumes you."

Sante, 165 N. Trade Street, Matthews, is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. For hours and reservations, call 704-845-1899.

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