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Chef Curtis Hackaday and 1703
Whether he’s walking the woods of Winston-Salem with his daughter searching for in-season mushrooms or he’s planning another deliciously successful Beer v. Wine 2nd Sunday Supper, Curtis Hackaday, head chef at 1703 Restaurant and Catering, is constantly chasing his curiosity for bringing the unexpected to your plate.
On the first day of autumn he was present in the kitchen and preparing for the 1703 lunch rush with spices meticulously lined up on the counter and pans preheating for sauces and fresh ingredients. He briskly and effortlessly moved around the shelves of supplies and implements surrounding him.
As he stirred an enormous pan of sautéed greens and seasoned a bowl of pumpkin to make a fall infused curry he enthusiastically answered our questions about how he grew a passion into an admirable career as one of Winston-Salem’s finest.
Hackaday started at 1703 not soon after the restaurant opened its doors in 2000 but he didn’t start in the kitchen. Instead, he and his sister were servers for several years. He jumped in head first doing whatever it took to get into the kitchen and in 2012 his do-what-it-takes attitude paid off. He was given full reign to create what is arguably the Triad’s most imaginative and daily evolving menu.
While he is now praised for his unique spin Hackaday says it wasn’t always easy welcoming guests into the cutting edge of culinary innovation.
“At first my food wasn’t really accepted here. They weren’t all too crazy about my purple rice. But I suppose the culture has changed and people want something different now. and it changed the way they thought. It’s the age of information. Regional cuisines aren’t so inaccessible now. If you want to know how to make a Korean dish, there are tons of resources at your disposal.”
His love for international influence is clear and he finds inspiration in authentic dishes both from afar and those we’ve always known and loved, always putting his original spin on them.
“When I got this job I went and bought like twenty or thirty cookbooks- but not well-known cookbooks. I wouldn’t buy Jamie Oliver. You know, books from all over, that maybe if I was doing a Vietnamese-inspired menu I would definitely go peruse a book that is popular in Vietnam. And then I would put the spin on it. It’s easier now because people are more in tune with what other people are eating. I always do something you wouldn’t think goes together and I always get the best reactions from that.”
His desire to explore new ingredients and new methods of preparation doesn’t just end with blending cuisines. He also has a passion for adapting for what people want and what people need.
“Here at 1703, we are a very custom restaurant. I can spend all day on making recipes and if we have ten people come in and want something totally different I oblige.”
1703 not only takes this approach with their daily menu they also invite clients to collaborate on the catering side of their business. In the two events, Hackaday is catering in the upcoming week he keeps it close to the classics for one client while roasting a whole pig and grilling an octopus for the other. It is clear Hackaday is willing to deliver on what guests want, so what about what guests need?
“We have customers who have to eat organic so I search for organic. They come in on Tapas Tuesday and I’ll have a few options for them to choose from.”
No matter the cooking challenge, Hackaday seems ready to take it on. What may be considered the most challenging season for 1703 is certainly the month of December when they host office Christmas parties, their regulars, and catering all in the same day. So what tools does Hackaday use to survive the most wonderful time of the year?
With a smile, he responds, “Coffee.”
Some other things he can’t live without are good knives and good shoes.
“I have a bunch of fancy Japanese steel, soft metal knives. They dull quicker but sharpen easier. My favorite is my German steel, it’s a hard metal. With a hard knife, you can keep a sharp edge longer and the hard metal has good balance. I’ve worked with a bunch of chefs that are knife nerds. It truly is to each their own. And shoes are very important.”
He motions to the new Alegria Men’s Schuster Black Tumbles he was fitted for before he began prepping lunch and talking with us.
“I love them. They feel good. Usually, I have a week where I have to break them in. These aren’t hurting.”
With all the energy and movement it takes to create the inspired menu found at 1703 the last thing he needs on his mind are aching feet.
After a promise to visit for brunch, we took our leave from the hidden gem on Robinhood Road far from buzzy downtown eateries but right at the heart of what’s fresh and exciting on the Winston-Salem restaurant scene.
We can’t wait to see what Chef Curtis Hackaday has in mind for putting his signature spin on next.