Restaurant royalty

Server Tara Whitney and chef Paul Abowd at the Stone House Café.

Server Tara Whitney and chef Paul Abowd at the Stone House Café.

Photo By allison Young

Stone House Café is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

If you have had the pleasure of sitting at a table in one of Chef Paul Abowd’s many restaurants over the years, you have had the experience of food royalty. At 85, Abowd, currently the chef at Stone House Café, is likely the oldest cooking chef in the state of Nevada.

“I’ve never tried to sell myself,” he said. “I felt I had a responsibility not to disappoint my customers with what I put on a plate.”

His mantra has always been “find ways to always make it better.” During our interview, he told me he had to correct the way a balsamic dressing was being made that morning because “it wasn’t right.”

“I enjoy people,” he said. “My ideas for food and my desire to change my menus are because this is not a boring job. I like the challenges, and I’ve been that way since I was a kid. To me, work is not a penalty, it’s a blessing. Retirement is an end, and I’m not there yet, and I know Adele would not want me to, either. But not the hectic pace. I’m taking more time for myself.”

Adele was Abowd’s wife for 54 years; she passed away in 2004, but everyone who knew her remembers her as a classy, proper lady—“the rock” in all of Abowd’s ventures. And when you visit the Stone House Café, you’ll see the living tribute to an original, Adele Abowd.

Right after he was discharged from the Marine Corps at age 20, Abowd opened his first restaurant in El Cerrito, Calif., called EAT, a name that said it all. Some of the biggest names in show biz—Sinatra, Crosby, Benny—all frequented the place. He created Peg’s Glorified Eggs and Ham in the Bay Area and brought it to Reno and sold the name and concept a few years ago. He moved to Carson City in 1977, and opened Adele’s. Charlie, Paul’s son, still operates Adele’s in Carson City, and like-father-like-son, Charlie has displayed his talents at the iconic James Beard House in New York City.

Abowd’s French toast is made the old fashioned way. It goes on the grill first, then into the “French” fryer, and then back onto the grill, and finished off with a banana rum sauce and pecans—a wow factor. The breakfast prices run from $5.95 to $15. There’s a full lunch menu with traditional burgers, combo plates, pasta, wraps, soups, salads and Mexican fare. And then there are the sandwiches, like the eggplant and portabella mushroom with sautéed roasted red peppers, onions and Gruyere. Luncheon prices run from $5.95 to $18.

The dinner menu is an overwhelming frustration in pleasure. The choices cover the gambit of cuisine so I’ll mention my preferences. True Sand Dabs are hard to find, and Abowd’s are pan-sautéed in lemon with butter and almonds. He offers a baked avocado and crab topped with Hollandaise and served in a puffed pastry shell. For beef, there’s a mustard steak and sautéed calf sweet breads. There are chicken livers sautéed with shallots, garlic, and a blend of wild forest mushrooms. Dinners run from $8 to $40 for steak and lobster, and all are served with vegetable and a starch. There’s a full bar and a modest, but well suited, wine list. It seats 42 inside, with linens at dinner, and patio dining is set for 84 in the summer.

The father of chefdom, Auguste Escoffier, noted, “In all professions without a doubt, but certainly in cooking, one is a student all his life,” that is Paul. And like Escoffier, Paul has created his own legacy: master of the menu … food royalty … king of Nevada kitchens.