6:55 pm, Thursday July 28th, 2022
6:55 pm, Thursday July 28th, 2022
BY ELLIOT ACOSTA | PHOTOS BY MASH PHOTOGRAPHY
Vidrio introduced a refined state of dining to the rowdy streets of Glenwood South when its doors opened in 2017. The eatery earned instant acclaim by stunning diners with an awe-inspiring glass art wall and Mediterranean-focused menu.
At the helm of Vidrio’s kitchen is Executive Chef Saif Rahman. A person of deep faith, Rahman believes his journey into professional cooking was simply “following what he was supposed to be doing.” Becoming a chef wasn’t so much a choice for him, as it was a path chosen for him. While working in highly regarded kitchens—like Michelin 3-star restaurant Grace in Chicago—may have sharpened his skills, Rahman insists his culinary talents are more of a divine blessing than personal manifestation. Before destiny guided Rahman to work as a chef, he had already ventured into other pursuits, such as working in the financial sector. However, as he recalls, “everything came back to cooking.”
Chef Rahman’s call to the kitchen started in his grandmother’s village in Bangladesh. Unbeknownst to the younger Rahman, the time in his grandmother’s lush rice fields and plentiful garden of produce would provide the foundation of his culinary career. “Back then I didn’t realize what it was, but now [looking back] it was the most amazing thing,” Rahman says.
He marvels at the access he had to fresh fruit, like mangoes and lychees. But it wasn’t just his grandmother’s bountiful garden that amazed Rahman, it was how she was able to “make people happy, make people smile and touch the soul.” Those are the kinds of memories and emotions that Rahman attempts to recreate at Vidrio.
Although the restaurant’s Mediterranean menu is a departure from the cuisine of Rahman’s childhood, his upbringing still inspires many of his dishes. Rahman’s focus on using local ingredients is founded in memories of cooking with ingredients from his grandmother’s garden. When the pandemic made getting supplies to Vidrio challenging, Rahman leaned into those humble beginnings by using whatever limited ingredients were made available to him, and then creating refined dishes from them. Rahman’s skill of transforming these simple ingredients into delicious entrees is on display in Vidrio’s “From the Garden” menu, which elevates plain produce such as carrots into posh fare, thanks to his ability to expertly grill them and then add complexity with tahini yogurt.
ADD SOME SOUL
Rahman has a simple ethos when crafting Vidrio’s menu: “Food doesn’t have soul—it’s the cook that puts the soul in the food,”
he says. This philosophy became especially important when Rahman took over the kitchen at Vidrio in the middle of the pandemic, which weighed so heavily on his staff that “cooking didn’t have feeling anymore,” he says.
“Cooking is easy,” Rahman says. His bigger challenge at Vidrio is inspiring his team to put soul into the food. This approach is partly why Rahman entered and won the North Carolina Restaurant &
Lodging Association’s Chef Showdown in 2021. He stresses that he didn’t win for himself, but competed for his parents, his grandmother and his staff. The passion Rahmen has cultivated from his cooks has produced seasonal dishes like Harissa Roasted Joyce Farms Chicken, classics like Coq Au Vin and seafood specialties like Carolina Mountain Trout. Each dish is an extension of the kitchen’s soul, and may be why Rahman hesitates to pick out a favorite from his menu. “It’s like asking me to pick out my favorite child,” he says.
Determined to showcase the Mediterranean region beyond Greece and Italy, Rahman has offered themed dinners for the Mediterranean’s less-celebrated culinary cuisines from countries like Portugal, Egypt and Morocco. These “Taste Tours,” as Rahman has named them, are a vehicle to support regions in need. Vidrio hosted a Ukrainian Taste Tour, then donated the proceeds to support the World Central Kitchen’s mission to feed Ukrainian families in the war-torn country. When creating the tours, Rahman strives to make personal connections to discover the countries’ dishes. He chose to forgo easily accessible research methods such as YouTube and, instead, learned about the featured country’s recipes by seeking out a native from that country. In the case of his Taste Tour of Ukraine menu, Rahman gleaned recipes from his Ukrainian seafood delivery man.
When diners come to eat at Vidrio, Rahman hopes they support him and the restaurant, but also hopes they understand the struggle that goes into making his operation a success—that they understand the hard work and soul that comes into each dish at Vidrio. Because Rahman’s goal for Vidrio isn’t to chase down accolades; rather, he is driven by the daily pursuit to do his best and to keep his team and diners happy.
CAROLINA MOUNTAIN TROUT
By Vidrio Executive Chef Saif Rahman
500 grams of clean whole trout
12 grams of chopped shallots
7 grams of minced garlic
2 ounces of lemon juice
2.5 ounces of olive oil
(separated into 1.5 and 1 ounce)
8 grams of kosher salt
(plus more for seasoning)
30 grams of unsalted butter
1 gram of fresh-picked parsley
1 gram of fresh-picked mint
2 grams of fresh-picked sweet basil
6 grams of sliced almonds
½ of a fresh lemon
2 grams of capers
Blend the 1.5 ounces of olive oil and 8 grams of salt, then pour onto the trout. Set aside for 20 minutes.
In a small sauté pan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. When the shallots are lightly translucent, take them off the heat. In a blender, slowly mix the butter/shallots/garlic mixture with 2 ounces of lemon juice. Season the mixture with salt, to taste, and set it aside.
Put all of the herbs in cold water to hydrate them.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. When it’s ready, put the trout in for 7 minutes, then flip and cook it for another 4–5 minutes. The skin should be crispy and the inside of the fish should be white.
In a mixing bowl, add all the herbs and the remaining 1 ounce of olive oil, the juice of ½ a lemon, almonds and capers, and season the mixture to taste with salt.
Place the trout on a plate and pour the butter sauce on top of it. Add the salad on the side and enjoy!