Over the next couple weeks, it will pain Drew Adams not to be able to serve barbecue oysters, pork belly flatbread and braised short rib ravioli to diners at Fork in the Road.
But the executive chef refuses to see the fire that broke out at his Santa Monica restaurant last week as anything other than a blessing in disguise.
“It’s unfortunate, but things happen,” he said. “I’ve never been through something like this, so I’m going to use that as a learning experience and forge through this.”
The restaurant, located at 2424 Main St., will likely be closed for about a month as the necessary repairs are completed, Adams said.
In the meantime, Adams will think about all of the other potentially tragic scenarios that could have played out and be thankful that his restaurant was spared more significant damage.
“We could’ve been locked and loaded with a full dining room at 9 o’clock and had somebody get hurt,” he said. “No one got hurt, so we’re very happy about that.”
Adams also noted that the fire could have broken out late at night, when it could have gone unnoticed for longer and caused more devastating destruction to the building and the expensive cooking equipment inside.
The fire was detected after 3 p.m. on Thursday, when the restaurant is closed between lunch and dinner service, so only three or four employees were in the building, Adams said.
The fire couldn’t be seen inside the restaurant because it was contained inside a wall along a pathway from the kitchen to the bar, Adams said.
But a maintenance worker who happened to be delivering light bulbs noticed smoke coming from the roof as he was entering through the rear breezeway.
“He’s like, ‘Drew, there’s smoke coming out of the building,'” Adams said. “I said something like, ‘Who’s got a tray of bacon in the oven?’ And he said, ‘No, I think there’s a fire.'”
Adams immediately called the Santa Monica Fire Department, whose Hollister Avenue station is just a block from Fork in the Road.
Main Street was closed for about an hour and a half as firefighters worked to put out the blaze, which had moved from the walls behind the restaurant’s stove towards the ceiling area.
The fire department’s 29-person response included five engines, one truck, a hazardous materials team, a battalion crew and two investigators, according to an SMFD release.
“The affected walls and ceiling were opened up and the fire was extinguished,” fire officials said.
Adams, who grew up with restaurateur parents, has been cooking since he was a young child. He said he’s poured considerable time and energy into Fork in the Road, which officially opened last year.
The restaurant’s menu features what Adams calls California cuisine with global character, and many of its ingredients are sourced from Santa Monica farmers markets.
It’s all a labor of love for Adams, who is also the director of operations.
“I’m never off the clock,” he said. “It’s in my blood, and I love it so much. For me, it’s not about the money. It’s about handshakes and hugs … We’ve had our ups and downs, but when it comes down to it we usually come up on top.”
Adams said he chose Santa Monica for his restaurant, which eschews traditional signage for a giant silver fork on the front of the building, because of the access to high-quality ingredients and the vibe on Main Street.
Despite the fire, Adams remains excited about the future of Fork in the Road and said he’s thankful for the support he’s received around town.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s like rebuilding another restaurant from the ground up. It’s another challenge. If it were easy, then it wouldn’t be fun at all. You’ve always gotta have a challenge.”
Added one Yelp reviewer: “Lets (sic) hope the owners can recover quickly because this is one fabulous place.”
The fire at Fork in the Road was the latest in a string of blazes involving Santa Monica eateries.
On Aug. 12, a fire broke out at Cafe de Paris after a car slammed into the back of the Montana Avenue restaurant’s building.
On June 10, heat from the wood-burning oven at Tar & Roses caused a fire in the popular restaurant’s building on Santa Monica Boulevard.
All repairs have been completed except those involving the oven flue, for which executives are awaiting City approval, according to a Sept. 5 post on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Tar & Roses is expected to open a few weeks after the flue work begins.