Black Walnut: Where early techniques meet fresh, modern fare

Paul Adams and Max Van Wieren
Executive chef and owner Paul Adams (right) and sous-chef Max Van Wieren

By Kelsey Smith

Earlier this year, Paul Adams achieved a lifelong dream. As the new executive chef and owner of the Black Walnut, Adams reopened the restaurant in April and brought his creative flair to Saugatuck.

“I use the term primitive modern, because I try to use some old-world techniques,” Adams said. “We make our own kimchi and pickled beets, it’s some of the old techniques that used to be used, and then we do a modern presentation.”

Seared Alaskan Halibut
Seared Alaskan Halibut

Before owning the Black Walnut, Adams was the executive head chef at Hawkshead Inn in South Haven. However, being a chef wasn’t Adams’ original plan.

“It was plan B actually,” he said. “I thought I was going to be a musician, but that didn’t work out for me, so that’s when I started taking cooking more seriously. I dove into the other thing I could be artistic with and enjoy.”

Seared Alaskan Halibut, the Pickled Beet Salad and the Prawns appetizer are just a few of the tasteful selections that flood the menu.

“(We are) trying to get the food more progressive as we go,” Adams said. “We started out with a super simple menu, we’ve improved on it a little bit already, and (we) just keep on tweaking things until we’re happy with it.”

Inside, the restaurant seats 71 guests and an additional 20 can be seated outside. Working alongside Adams is his sous-chef, Max Van Wieren. Together, the duo focuses on creating an open and inviting atmosphere.

Pickled Beet Salad
Pickled Beet Salad

“I just want them (guests) to be comfortable when they come in,” Adams said. “You can come in with green hair and a T-shirt and sit down and relax and feel fine, or you can come in a three-piece suit and feel equally as comfortable.”

For Adams, his career can be challenging, but also rewarding.

“When you feed somebody, you see them smile, they’re happy and they’re enjoying themselves,” he said. “I don’t think there’s really any other career where you get sudden fulfillment seeing your finished product with the consumer at the same time. It’s good to know you were a part of them having a good night.”

Black Walnut
129 Griffith St.

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