Almost ten years in as chef and co-owner of CafeADAM, and Adam Zieminski has only one complaint: he can’t find anything to complain about. “The Berkshires are a great place to set up shop if you’re a chef,” he says. “It’s such a rich community of restaurants and farms and there’s a strong relationship with the customers. We all learn from each other and share a mutual respect.”
Zieminski and his wife Sylwia Orczykowska established their Great Barrington restaurant in 2006, taking over the space where Zieminski’s parents had run a bakery called Sweet Peas. Since then, Zieminski says, “We’ve grown up a little bit!” Two years ago, in order to accommodate a growing customer base, they moved into their current location in the Jenifer House Commons, where they have been able to spread out and make the space their own, with 85 seats and a full bar.
In true Berkshire fashion, CafeADAM combines worldly sophistication with a cozy affection for the local. Zieminski, who grew up in Housatonic, says he made a conscious decision to become a chef at age 13, and has always been drawn to stay in the Berkshires. With training in French and Italian cuisine and cooking experience in the UK, the chef says that his style may be “hard to nail down,” but he and Sylwia have dubbed it “modern European,” leaving themselves the flexibility to plate avant-garde dishes and respond to the seasonality of local ingredients.
Looking at the food scene now, compared to when he was young, the chef says, “It’s almost night and day. When I was growing up there was not as much information out there and there was very little transparency in the supply chain. The education wasn’t there, either.” Since then, he says, there’s been a great “progressive change.” He points to Bizalion’s imported olive oil, the proliferation of local cheese, meat, and preserved things, local breweries, Berkshire Mountain Distillers, and our local vegetable farms. “It’s great to be able to showcase all these great products and have people appreciate them.”
In the summer, Zieminski likes to let the ingredients speak for themselves. “The local farms are at their peak, and everything is so fresh it’s like a Garden of Eden. We do a lot more chilled foods, raw food. We’re serving ceviche, raw oysters, steak tartar, quick-seared fish. Very light, easy-to-digest dishes, with crisp white wines and rosés. It’s my favorite kind of cuisine.”
Zieminski may be a master foodie, but this is one chef who knows it’s not all about food. He sees CafeADAM as part of a bigger movement focused on developing the Berkshires in a way that shares our common wealth, preserves our iconic New England charm, but also stays modern. “It comes down to the farms, small cafes, restaurants, mom & pop stores, craftspeople, artists, landscapers, and service providers that are native grown. It takes people that are savvy and unique programs like BerkShares. When you look at the big picture in the world—between politics and war and where money is going–it’s a privilege and it’s liberating to have our own currency. It’s an action when you use BerkShares. It’s an instant way to not feel helpless; to do something that makes a difference. It’s like voting.”