Jody Adams’s Financial District restaurant, Trade, softly reopened after a hiatus last month, without much fanfare. A new Parisian chef is at the helm: Nadia Michaud, 35, whom Adams happened to meet on a trip to France and who overhauled the Greek-focused Mediterranean menu after the original chef quit.
Michaud now lives near Formaggio Kitchen in Huron Village.
“I have two decks, and I grow my own vegetables,” she says.
What drew you to Boston?
It goes back to 2019, end of summer. I’m half-French and half-American, and had been going back and forth a lot. I grew up between Paris and California. In 2019, I [cooked at] a few restaurants in Athens, Greece, and at the end of the season, I went back to Paris for a month to help a friend out who was closing his restaurant. It was: ‘Let’s have fun for a month, and do whatever we want on the menu.’ And Jody walked in and tried the whole menu.
That was two years ago. She came to talk to me afterward. It was a small place. We changed plates every day, very local, lots of farm foods. She came to talk to me at the end of service. We had a great conversation, and it led to me coming to Boston. We had a very similar background and framing of food. Finally, she became my mentor in a way, and we became great, close friends.
I was also working at Craigie on Main and helping Tony Maws, because he was struggling finding staff. Jody came, we had tea, and she was telling me about Trade opening. I know openings are difficult, and so I offered to help — whatever she needed. After two days of a very soft opening, with it not being publicized, the chef in question walked out. I was alone in the kitchen. Jody came in, smiled, hugged me, and said, ‘I guess it’s you and me now, baby.’ She trusted me and my food. I stumbled into it, but Jody has allowed me to make it mine.
How did you get started as a chef?
My mom is from California, and my dad is French. I grew up in Paris, and we had a summer house on the east coast of Italy. We were spending every summer there, fishing, close to nature, always outside. I had all these village friends. When they were 14, they started working. I was always really close to food. When I was 6 and 7 years old, I would help the old ladies make fresh pasta. I was always in kitchens, running around, sitting on kitchen counters. I liked that environment of women cooking together.
At 14, I got my first job at a restaurant. All my friends were working. That’s how I started, in the summers, until I was 17 or 18. Then I started college in California and Oregon. I worked there in kitchens at the same time, because that was really my passion, but family-wise, I had to get a degree.
Then I went back to Paris, got a master’s in journalism and in law, while working in kitchens. It was just: ‘Mom, here’s your diploma.’
I like to study. I’m kind of a nerd. I’m not your typical cook. I want to get studying now and get another degree in something else while doing this.
I was working in kitchens, going for exams, and exempted from courses. In France, when you have a regular workload, 35 percent of the week, you’re exempted from some assignments, but your grade is 100 percent the exam. I’m kind of ADHD.
What do you think of the Boston food scene?
I enjoy it. I like the new concepts and projects. I like the designs. There are some places I like more than others. I really like the variety of food available.
I have been working all the time and in lockdown, but I love Saltie Girl as a to-go place. I am a small-plate kind of person. I love Pammy’s. I love Tony [Maws]’s food. Tony and I are pretty close; we work well together. I’m really interested in locally sourced ingredients, more sustainable. I’m not going to go to burger places or steakhouses. And I haven’t had much time, unfortunately, since I’ve been working all the time.
Trade is in an interesting location, close to the Financial District and the Seaport. How’s foot traffic?
For a soft opening, and us not having announced anything on social media — it’s still permanently closed as stated on Google — we have had 220 covers on a Saturday night, and the Financial District has no foot traffic on Saturday nights. We’re getting busy, and it’s cool.
Is it word of mouth?
I think it is, and we have changed the menu, and my cooking is kind of different, I guess. I do things differently, and people are happy with the food, and my collaboration with Jody is flawless. The first two weeks in the kitchen together, she asked me to change the menu — I wasn’t going to pursue the chef’s menu who left — and she’s very supportive of all of that. I’m working with very specific farmers and purveyors who get me high-quality food. I’m able to make interesting plates that are different than what you’d find around.
Talk to me about your food philosophy. What makes it different?
Since humanity began, food is part of family and relationships, and everything revolves around food in all countries and cultures.
I’m working only with line-caught fish, fish processed on boats. . . . My cuisine is very minimal, fresh, seasonal, so you’ll see a lot of changes. My fish changes daily. They call me at 4 a.m. and tell me what they picked up at Pier 21. I butcher my own meat. I get carcasses in and butcher my own cow so I can use every single bit of it and not work with huge companies that are destroying the business. I want people to actually taste good food and know what food really is. It can be very simple and pure. It’s because it’s humanely raised and well-fed. Real food exists and is available to everyone. That’s my food philosophy.
What’s wrong with food culture?
Fast food. Processed food and processed meat — meats flown all over the world. Unsustainable fishing methods. It’s sad. We have these big companies miseducating people and children and even groups of people that don’t have the money and the means to shop at the farmers’ market. You have big companies that make it easy to make people sick. I’m very against that.
What do you eat at home?
You know, I’m into vegetables and smoked sardines. I’m into grains and beans. I have a house in Greece, I worked in Greece a lot, I spend a lot of time in Greece. I am into green vegetables, beans, and very simple food. I eat a lot of fish, a lot of raw fish. I’m not a big meat-eater except if I know where it’s from and how it was slaughtered. But I don’t have any time now. I’m stuck here.
I eat eggs at home: I have this thing with breakfast sandwiches. I make my own brioche and make really runny scrambled eggs with hot sauce. That’s my 3-in-the-morning kind of food. Or spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, garlic, chili, olive oil.