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Q&A: The Gables at Chadds Ford's Chef Dave Wenerd

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You may visit The Gables at Chadds Ford for its outstanding happy hour, superb wine list and craft beer offerings or comfortable atmosphere. But take one bite and you will know for sure why patrons visit again and again—the tasty and satisfying dishes that come out of executive chef Dave Wenerd’s kitchen.

We recently named him our Best Overall Chef in the annual Best Of issue, and with good reason. He continues to wow diners with his clever interpretations of seasonal ingredients that result in refined, homey fare with vision, composition and striking flavors. We recently spoke with this year’s top chef to find out how he got his start, his food philosophy and so much more. Meet executive chef Dave Wenerd:

Main Line Today: How did you get your start in the industry?

Dave Wenerd: I’ve been in the restaurant business since high school, starting as a food runner, yet all the while observing the chefs I was working for. I attended the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia while I continued to work all around Philly. I loved it and it was a great way to gain all kinds of experiences with different cuisines. I did some food running at Culinaria in Wilmington, Delaware, too. After graduating, I settled into the Chadds Ford area as executive chef at The Bistro on the Brandywine, followed by a stint running the off-premises catering for Brandywine Prime, prior to becoming executive chef at The Gables.

What’s your philosophy about cooking?

It should be fun, and I have fun with it. Imagine that; I get to “play” with food every day and create dishes to delight our customers. I love not only creating unique recipes but also nailing the visual appeal … working with textures and shapes on the plate.

What would you say is your number one job as executive chef?

It’s all about creating a balance of parties and menu service. In 2015, we did more than 250 parties plus the restaurant’s brunch, lunch, dinner, prix fixe and bar menus. That means we have multiple menus going at once, so I’m ordering, costing and scheduling for all of that. And cooking, of course. We’re always cooking.

Even with all that going on, you still manage to maintain a rooftop garden, too. What’s the current scoop on that?

I look forward to taking my time with the garden. We’ve nearly tripled it in size, and we’re already seeing peppers, herbs and other summer veggies. I still have strawberries that come back year after year, too. And while it’s largely seasonal, toward the end of the year I harvest and make good use of our dehydrator so I can use dried herbs and spice blends into winter, and I can tomatoes to do the same. We source a lot locally, but it’s really cool to cook from our own garden.

What is your favorite food to cook?

Scallops, hands-down. I can do almost anything with scallops. We have a scallop du jour on the menu, so I get to mix it up every day. Bacon-wrapped scallops are definitely popular, but I like to switch it up with mashed sweet potatoes, maybe a snap pea and corn side. We have a scratch kitchen here, so whatever’s fresh and in season is fair game.

What ingredients will we find that you absolutely can’t live without in your home kitchen?

You’ll find tons of ingredients that add flavor to other things: sriracha sauce, pickles, apple cider vinegar and an array of finishing salts. That’s the secret to great dishes—that extra “something” makes all the difference.

Want to get a taste of Wenerd’s menu? Check out one of The Gables at Chadds Ford’s upcoming events, or enjoy happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4:30–6:30 p.m. at the bar and bar tables. Swing by Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.–10 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m. The restaurant is closed Mondays.

www.thegablesatchaddsford.com, 423 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, (610) 388-7700.