Chef Robert Gadsby is opening a restaurant called Noe in Barrington on Sept. 4 where he will charge $125 per person.
“There are two types of diners in the world,” the award-winning chef explained. “The first wants to be filled up when hungry; the second wants to be dazzled.”
Diners at Noe will experience a five-course meal that will dazzle, he said. “If you come to Noe,” he declared, “you will have one of the best meals of your life.”
Gadsby is also the culinary director at Harvest 365, the restaurant in the Forest Park Mall on Roosevelt Road where the most expensive item on the menu is a large Perfect Pan Pizza for $28.95. He also oversees the Living Fresh Market.
When asked if he is getting rich in his role at Harvest 365, Gadsby smiled. “It’s not about the money,” he said.
To understand his bi-vocational vocation, it’s necessary to begin in England where he grew up and started out as a kick boxer, which took him all over the world, competing in matches and exposing him to an amazing variety of cuisines.
When he returned to England, he left kick boxing behind and enrolled in culinary school at Westminster College in London. Following graduation, he embarked on a self-designed series of extended internships in Italy, France, Japan, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Russia and Iceland.
The result is that Gadsby is not stuck on one cuisine. He uses mac-and-cheese as an example. It is often thought of as soul food, he said, but the noodles can be Italian, Chinese or Thai. Macaroni can also be served with a mornay sauce. It can be baked or cooked loose.
“Same with oxtails. It isn’t necessarily African American. The Chinese cook oxtails too.”
Working with a series of award-winning chefs to refine his craft, the result is not a fusion cuisine that combines ingredients into a “melting pot” but an approach he calls Progressive American, which juxtaposes dishes from all over the world, allowing each to retain its individual flavor, texture and color.
“I don’t cook for myself,” he explained. “I cook for the customer.”
For example, when he opens Noe in the fall and people make a reservation, he will actually interview them to find out their individual preferences.
“I would classify myself as an alchemist,” he said. “If you don’t like spicy food, for example, we won’t do spicy food. If you want red meat, we can do that. If you are a barbecue person and want sweet chili sauce, we can adjust.
“If you are recovering from cancer,” he added, “I cook what’s best for you.”
Gadsby doesn’t drink, yet he has 3,000 bottles of wine in his cellar which he will pair with each of the five courses in his soon-to-open restaurant. He also pays attention to seasonality, only cooking with strawberries, when they are at peak flavor in the spring, or apples in the fall.
“When we start the wellness program at Living Fresh Market,” he said, “people who have high blood pressure, hypertension, or diabetes can learn how diet affects their condition. It will encompass everything having to do with wellness and food.”
A gourmet chef, who is also the culinary director of a less-than-gourmet restaurant like Harvest 365, still aspires to serve quality food.
Four or five years ago he worked as a consultant for Melody Winston, senior executive of Living Fresh Market and director of Commercial Property Assets for Living Word Christian Center, helping her put together the menu for Heritage 365. In so doing he connected with her father, Bill Winston, pastor of Living Word Christian Center, which is housed in the entire south half of the mall and lists its membership at 20,000 members.
“I want to make Pastor Winston’s vision a reality,” he said. “I have a contract with the Lord. I walk by faith and not by sight. With faith you can achieve anything. My success is based 100% on faith, and my business partner at Noe is the Lord.”