Chef Talk: Segovia’s Adam Donnelly
Segovia owner and chef Adam Donnelly lights up Winnipeg's food scene with his Spanish tapas. Donnelly relies on simple ingredients, simply prepared and letting the flavours do the work.
Taking risks is in Adam Donnelly's nature.
On December 1, 2009, he opened Segovia with fuzzy experience but a clear vision. Before that day he had never worked as a sous chef and he had certainly never been a head chef, never mind operating his own restaurant and leading a professional kitchen.
“I was pretty nervous,” says Donnelly, recalling his restaurant-by-fire approach.
His gutsiness, along with his wife Carolina's sensibility, has served Segovia well. The Spanish tapas lounge and restaurant has been on Winnipeggers top 10 restaurant lists since its opening.
And just recently, the 45-seat restaurant landed on Maclean's magazine's Top-50 restaurants in Canada (The special edition was written by the national magazine's food editor Jacob Richler, who also put Pizzeria Gusto on Academy Road on the list.)
Donnelly graduated from Red River College's culinary arts program in 2005. He and Carolina later hit the road together, landing in London and then later traveling through Europe, including Spain.
In London, they fell in love with a particular Spanish tapas house's food, buzzing atmosphere and the convivial bliss of sharing bites and glasses of free-flowing wine amongst friends.
“It seemed like a lot more fun, a lot more intimate,” says Donnelly, 29.
He wanted to recreate that magic in Winnipeg.
Locals quickly fell in love with Segovia. Today, its popularity endures as evidenced by regular waits for a table (especially on weekends). Donnelly is all about preparing simple, ingredient-driven food using uncomplicated preparations and straight-forward presentation, he says.
He and Carolina, who married in summer 2012, have built a small business based on big dreams and sturdy footing.
“(Adam) has a dream and he just goes for it,” says Carolina, 24.
She's all about the nuts and bolts of the operation: food costs, suppliers, paying bills and staffing. Meanwhile, Donnelly is the artist, the creative force in food.
“That's what you need in a relationship—someone with their head in the clouds and someone with their feet on the ground,” says Carolina. “It just works for us.”
The couple has no plans right now to open another location or expand their business. Donnelly says they always wanted a small restaurant that did a bustling business. Donnelly wants to keep his focus on the food and the high standard of quality Segovia delivers today.