Adam Wilson, owner and executive chef of The Square Root Restaurant offers a diner-focused experience centered on “relaxed American cuisine with a world-view”, inspired by his own lifetime of food and travel.
Wilson’s time in the restaurant business spans some twenty years. His previous background involves a wide range of cooking venues including Ritz Carlton Hotels and country clubs, as well as stints as a personal chef on a mega-yacht and on an estate owned by multi-billionaries. “I moved around a lot in the earlier part of my career to learn as much as I could,” said Wilson. Wilson’s early life as a child of a military father allowed him to encounter food in a variety of areas around the country, but he found much of his passion rooted in the Southern flavors he encountered in Altanta, combined with the fusion dishes he learned in the upscale restaurants for whom he was employed.
Connections to the Area
After visiting WNC, Wilson fell in love with the natural scenery and friendly people. The Square Root opened in downtown Brevard in May of 2010 in the former home of the Transylvania Times. Wilson felt the small mountain town of Brevard offered an excellent opportunity to share world-class cuisine that people may not have had a chance to experience before.
The restaurant’s following among Hendersonville residents allowed him to open a second location on Hendersonville’s Main Street, just two years after the original Square Root opened it’s doors.
The Square Root restaurants embody a sense of history from the communities they call home. The Hendersonville location is shored up by one of the oldest walls in Hendersonville. The bar at the Brevard location features a bar top milled from a slab of spalted Ambrosia Maple felled in recent years on King Street and the bar itself is constructed of antique panel doors salvaged from a house on Main Street.
Growing a Business
Wilson is very open about the tremendous labor of love behind opening and working in his restaurants. His desire to build a team of people who share his sense of passion and adventure in bringing his vision to diners drives his sense of ownership. “There’s a feeling you can’t explain when someone loves what you are doing. I get a lot of enjoyment teaching and educating younger chefs that come into the industry as someone once did for me.”
Wilson also points out that balancing the demands of overseeing a restaurant with family life and spending a tremendous number of hours away from home each day requires dedication. “Opening a restaurant is intense, in terms of making sure all the ducks are in a row and paying attention to detail. It’s all about making sure each guest has their needs met and that they leave with a smile.”
Fresh, Local Connections
In looking to create connections to local food, Wilson makes it clear that quality is one of the key factors in deciding what makes it onto his plates. Sprouts, micro-greens, mountain trout, bone marrow, and a selection of beers and ciders are among The Square Root’s locally sourced offerings. While he buys as much as he can locally, he also points out that seasonality is a major factor in deciding what can be put on the menu and what has to be sourced from further away. Even during winter months, the emphasis is on supporting local farmers whenever possible.
The relationship with local purveyors is clearly important to Wilson, who tours facilities to understand how his ingredients are produced and grown. But some relationships are closer than others. “In the summer my wife and mother grow our micro-greens, a dozen or so varieties of edible flowers and fresh herbs. So I’m able to get some of our products directly from my family.” Wilson enjoys pairing the different flavors, which come from the various fresh ingredients he is able to obtain. “We start out with fresh food and always strive to put out food with flavors that will make a memorable experience.”
The Square Root’s connections with the local economy can be seen in their partnership with The Brown Bean Coffee Roasters, a roaster right across the alley from the Brevard location. The Square Root has their own unique blend, prepared by The Brown Bean, which is used in both restaurants. The blend is in high demand at the restaurant, particularly during the popular Sunday brunch, and diners can take the coffee home with them by visiting the coffee shop.
Vision for Cuisine
In relaying his vision for cuisine, it is clear that Wilson feels inspired by the relationship between people and their food, “When I walk out into the dining room and hear that it’s the best dish that they’ve ever eaten or a guest relates a meal to a special place they have traveled to somewhere around the world; it makes all the long hours every day worth it.”
Wilson is not shy about conveying the fact that quality and attention to detail maintain a place of paramount importance in his kitchens; he ensures that every plate that leaves the kitchen is perfect.
Josh O’Conner is an urban/land use planner with a passion for food and urban agriculture.