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Adam Bauer: Most Interesting People 2022

Adam Bauer: Most Interesting People 2022

The Heart of Gold chef runs a barebones kitchen operation to help pay his employees well and keep prices down.

Why He’s Interesting: Starting in kitchens at 15, Bauer ascended the Jonathon Sawyer food chain in his early 20s to become chef de cuisine at Greenhouse Tavern. The experience inspired him to do things a little differently when he took the helm at Heart of Gold. Now, the sandwich-and-burger joint is exploring the post-pandemic kitchen set-up with a tight, well-paid crew pumping out fine-casual fare. 

Skeleton Crew: On a busy Friday night, you’ll find just two cooks. Bauer is almost always on the line. Diners order up front, snag their own beers and eat on paper plates. “Basically, we’ve reduced the restaurant experience down to the lowest common denominator. We’ve cut out the dishwasher, the hostess and the waiters.”

Money Grub: By getting his hands dirty and keeping things lean, Bauer can pay each employee $17 an hour and keep prices reasonable. “I go home happy every night knowing everyone is making a living wage.”

Finding Focus: Diagnosed with ADHD at age 5, Bauer struggled in school but found clarity in the kitchen. “I thrive in an environment where I can be creative and bounce one place to another.”

Sowing Seeds: Time spent at his grandmother’s endeared Bauer to cooking. “She had a garden in the back, peach trees, apple trees, and just eating tomatoes like apples off the vine. I don’t want any of her money when she goes. I just want her cast iron pan.”

Heroes and Villains: The closure of Greenhouse Tavern disgraced Jonathan Sawyer to some Clevelanders — but not Bauer, who was inspired by the chef’s rise to fame at 28. “Seventy percent of the in-restaurants in Cleveland stemmed from his chef tree because we were dared to dream, dared to create and shown that you don’t have to exist within a corporate structure. You really can be a chef-driven restaurant.”

Fork in the Road: While every chef met a reckoning in 2020, Bauer also confronted the possibility of an amputation after falling from a 35-foot zip line and shattering his foot. He recovered after a 15-hour surgery and five months of rest. “A chef needs his mind, his feet, his hands, so there was a point where I was like What am I going to do? I’m thankful as hell to be able to get back to doing what I love to do.”

Sweet Disposition: Filling the space of The Plum — a beloved, trailblazing new-American restaurant from Good Co.’s Brett Sawyer — is not a task Bauer takes lightly. “Certain bastions of culinary excellence deserve the same amount of effort and attention to detail even after they move on to something else. You gotta live up to the hype.”

Simply Divine: The Mighty Duck exemplifies his fine-casual approach. Spicy duck bacon, avocado, alfalfa, green tomato agrodolce and maggi mayo invigorate a typical BLT served simply on a paper plate. “We have to let the food speak for itself … but I’m always going to be driving technique no matter what style of food I’m doing.”

Click here to meet the 30 Most Interesting People of 2022.