Missoula Restaurant Owners & Chefs:
Adam Belarde – The Montana Clubs,Hoagieville & Zimorino’s


“Owners and Chefs” is a restaurant section with a twist. To fill either position, chefs and owners must be able to wear many hats: Cook, server, human resource manager, repair person, negotiator, mediator, psychologist, bookkeeper, and more.  Armed with his top 10 questions, Bob Zimorino takes a peek behind the kitchen doors to find out how these local restaurateurs view the restaurant business in their own words.

Adam Belarde is the Corporate Chef for Food and Fun Inc., one of the owners of the Montana Clubs, Nickel Charlie’s, Zimorino’s, and, of course, the Hoagieville restaurants. I met with him at the offices of Food and Fun Inc. He is a busy guy with, if you’ll pardon the pun, a lot on his plate. Thirtyish, married, and a dad, he tries to balance work life with home, but harbors no illusions as to the scope of his job and the imbalance it can sometimes create. He talks here about the things he loves about his job. Check it out.

There are a lot of restaurants in Missoula. Why should a prospective diner choose yours?

Because we value quality in our food. We feel like customer service should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind whether that be a wait staff person, the host or hostess, and even the cooks.

What dish is your signature dish and why that particular dish?

AB: Great question. I would say we have a lot of signature dishes.

BZ: Pick one.

AB: Okay then, the Steak Oscar that we recently added to the menu. It has crab, grilled asparagus, and a béarnaise sauce (a rich butter and egg sauce with tarragon) served over an 8- or 12-ounce top sirloin steak, but we tell our customers they can have it on any steak.

What would you want it to say to the person that orders it?

It was quality, filling, you know they should maybe plan on getting a to go box for some of it, and it was memorable. It needs to be something where they say: “Man I am going to remember this place and I want to come back and I want to tell people about it.”

What is your favorite dish prepared in another Missoula restaurant?

(chuckles) That’s a tough one. I would say the Pearl Café has an excellent filet, with a port wine demi-glace in a Roquefort sauce that is excellent. That’s one that I have not found anywhere else in town or out of town. The Pearl does a really good job with their food.

You are originally from California and have been here eleven years, why Missoula?

Well, I kind of ended up here after getting my degree at the University of Montana. Originally when I moved to Montana, I moved to Kalispell where I started Nickel Charlie’s and ended up getting transferred to Missoula so that I could finish up getting my degree there at the U. Since finishing up my degree, I moved up the ladder in this company. I got married and started a family. This area, I think, is a great area to raise a family.


What is your least favorite cooking trend?

AB: The one that really irked me for the last few years is sliders… I don’t see anything to them. They make a little hamburger. I don’t get the fad.

BZ: Now you know they’ve been around a long time. White Castle was doing sliders back when I was a kid.

AB: Sure, but it’s just a little burger. I don’t understand the craze for it.

BZ: I once went to White Castle and ordered a quarter-pounder and got 36 hamburgers.

AB: (A hearty laugh)

It’s the Iron Chef competition and you are up. Who would you rather be up against: Bobby Flay or Cat Cora?

AB: (Without hesitation) Bobby Flay.

BZ: You want to compete against Bobby Flay.

AB: I don’t think I would want to, but I respect the guy.

BZ: If you had a choice between the two for competition?

AB: Probably Bobby Flay. I don’t know the other guy.

BZ: The other guy is a gal.

AB: (Shrugs) Okay.

You work with Nick and Bob. It is their setup, but you’ve been with them for a long time. How is it working for this company? What makes this company special?

One of the things that makes this company special is that we are growing and constantly changing. We’re evolving. One thing that makes it exciting is that while we’re not a Ma and Pa company, we’re also not a big corporation. So we’re kind of in that middle ground where we’re still going through growth changes and growing pains. Every day when we come to work, we try to make our businesses better. I appreciate working with Nick and Bob. They still have the energy and the drive to compete and to always make ourselves better…whatever it takes.

What do you think when you hear someone say, “I’ve never been in the restaurant business but it looks like fun.”

I tell them they should go work in one for a couple of years because anyone who thinks that they can just go open and run a restaurant…it can be fun. It can be rewarding, but there’s a lot more to it than I think people who come in as customers and see people managing a restaurant or serving in a restaurant know. They have a smile on their face and everything is great. It is supposed to look that way. That is their job. They have to smile and make sure all the customer sees is that it is okay.

They don’t see behind the scenes, what it takes, the hours…geez, just the hours putting together a menu, the prep work, hiring people, dealing with the personnel, training people to do things the way that you want it done. It is endless. There are a lot of challenge. It is a people business and it takes a certain type of personality to be successful at it. It is not all fun. There is a lot of hard work involved.

Give me 5 words to describe your restaurant.

Service, quality, big portions, and memorable.

Thanks, Adam

Thank you.

Checkout Missoula Restaurants and our comprehensive list of Missoula Dining options.  You may also want to watch Bob Zimorino’s Taste It blog or even watch one of his many video blogs–including this one on Cashew Chicken!

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Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in his lifetime.