Area 31’s Executive Chef Wolfgang Birk blends his worldly influences with local inspiration to create cuisine that’s elegant yet approachable so we asked him a few questions in the hopes of being inspired…
Tell me a little bit about how you started your culinary career and what initially motivated you to pursue this passion?
As the youngest of five, I had the privilege and good fortune to be part of nice dinners, and go to some very high-end Michelin star restaurants. Early on, I realized the amount of detail that went into each plate and was able to develop a good pallet. Originally, I started to work as a Gardner, but I had an urge to travel the world. I realized that people will always want to eat, wherever they are, and this led me on my journey. I started to work in two restaurants, both of which were Michelin star rated, and I also attended the Culinary Institute for Hotels and Restaurants in Pescara.
As a chef, how do you believe your techniques and tactics have evolved over the years, and is there such thing as the perfect dish?
The techniques remain the same, and it is the reputation of doing them well over the years—consistently—even in different conditions, and when products themselves change. You always learn and reinvent because equipment too evolves, allowing you to get closer and closer to the perfect outcome. Nothing is perfect. But there are moments when everything works out for the best, and when you have the best quality product, you can truly focus on creation.
At Area 31, and as EPIC’s corporate chef, how would you describe your approach to cuisine?
We try to stay true to ourselves and the product. Keeping it simple, starting with a classic foundation, and using local ingredients are important for us and the customer. They expect a wonderful dining experience, but they also need to relate to and understand our approach.
What are some of your signature dishes, and what continues to inspire you?
Our menu changes every four to six weeks, but currently my favorites are Corvina ceviche, pomegranate, preserved sweet potato, leche de tigre; Hamachi crudo bergamot ponzu, mustard seed; Grilled Octopus, smoked fingerling potato, taggiasca olives, squid ink vinaigrette;Local Berkshire pork,popcorn polenta, blackberry jus.
If you were to give one piece of advice to aspiring chefs on how to be successful in this industry, what would it be?
Be patient, start from the bottom, be respectful, work hard and be consistent.