Who’s Who: Zak Root, Steam Restaurant and Bar
Who’s Who of Wilmington Today: Meet Zak Root
Zak Root left Bend, Oregon, four years ago and headed to North Carolina. He first landed in Corolla, but now lives in Wilmington. In December of 2017 he opened Steam Restaurant and Bar in downtown Wilmington, and through hard work and a commitment to his passion for food, he has witnessed the restaurant grow exponentially ever since. He particularly enjoys the downtown area and riverfront. “It’s a beautiful place with tons of great food, coffee and beer,” he says.
What is your average workday like?
ZR: Before I do anything I have to caffeine up. After that, I do ordering, prep for the nightly specials and get the line ready for service, making sure everything is right where it should be.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
ZR: Hands down, my favorite part of my job is creating: pairing new flavors and presenting them in ways that are different from the norm. I’m constantly trying to recreate traditional recipes, to breathe new life into dishes that people have seen and eaten many times before.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
ZR: Finding balance. We chefs live high-octane lives. Kitchens are hot and stressful at times, and we consistently put in a ton of hours to provide a quality product for everyone. So maintaining a balance between work, fun, family and personal time is crucial.
What has working at Steam done for you?
ZR: Working here at Steam, and really moving to the South in general, has really opened up my palate to an entirely new realm of cooking and ingredients. It’s pushed me to think outside the box creatively, which has been a very refreshing experience.
Do you have any goals for the company, and what will you do to achieve them?
ZR: Currently, my main goal is to continue to define the cuisine that we do at Steam and Cloud 9. Merging different cuisines and creating a signature fusion between Southern, Oriental and some inspiration from my home in the Pacific Northwest. If I can present my food in a way that is at once familiar yet new and exciting, then I’ve accomplished my goal.
What is your favorite movie? – Serenity
What was your most embarrassing moment? – This is from my early days in the kitchen. I was carrying out some carrot ginger bisque to a buffet line for a wedding. My butterfingers dropped the pan, it hit the floor, soup went straight back up onto me, turning me a bright orange. Not one of my finest moments, it hurt like hell, and the chef was enraged that I had just ruined his soup.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Flight for sure because who doesn’t want to fly like an eagle?
What is your favorite song out right now? – “Redefined” by As I Lay Dying.
Do you have any pet peeves? – This list could be very long, but I’ll narrow it down to two. When people eat tacos top to bottom and when people that use A1 sauce to ruin a perfectly good and delicious steak.
What is your favorite quote? – “All my happiest memories seem to revolve around meat in tube form.” – Anthony Bourdain
Steam Restaurant and Bar has an extensive menu and educated staff with experience in food service all over the Carolinas and beyond. Located on the second floor of Embassy Suites and offering sweeping views, Steam serves fresh seafood, chicken, steak, sandwiches, soups and salads. Steam recently began serving a weekend brunch with unique and fun twists on ordinary brunch items. Zak’s personal favorite from the brunch menu is smoked salmon bao buns.
Steam Restaurant and Bar
9 Estell Lee Place, Wilmington
Matt McGraw Photography