Andy Husbands- A (Pit) Master of Service (Originally posted 5/17)

After moving to the Boston area from his native Seattle, Andy Husbands quickly found his calling in the kitchen. In fact, his fist food-related job began when he was 14, just months after he became a Bay Stater.

“It’s something that I’ve kinda’ always been passionate about as I look back,” Husbands explains, recalling donut making in fourth grade and steady restaurant work in high school. In fact, he says, it was during high school that his food service dream began to take shape.

“In my junior year,” he says, “I took a tour of Johnson & Wales University and I realized that I could go to school for the thing I wanted to do!”
As here were not as many chef-owners or, as Husbands puts it, “rock star chefs” in those days, Husbands studied hard and made all the productive connections he could in the food service community. Among these was one professor who took him aside one day and encouraged Husbands to do more in the community at large.

“I thought about that a lot,” Husbands says. “I knew that he had taken an interest and spoken with me about this like a mentor.”
After graduating, Husbands was soon able to find another mentor in “rock star” Chris Schlesinger, owner and chef at the famed East Coast Grille

“It was an unbelievable serendipitous landing of a job,” Husbands beams. “[Chris] challenged me, but also encouraged me to look at the business in a different way and to treat people really well.”
Husbands also credits Schlesinger with opening his eyes to entire new worlds of flavor.

“This was the 1980’s,” Husbands explains. “I had never seen an African Peri-Peri sauce before!”

In addition to teaching him the way around the kitchen, Schlesinger also advised Husbands on how to not only run the kitchen but the restaurant as well.

“He showed me what a family-run neighborhood place was,” Husbands suggests, noting that his “neighborhood” was the demanding international melting pot of Cambridge, MA.

Heading back west on a cross-country motorcycle trip, Husbands expanded his palette and his menu of talents in San Francisco and New Mexico, where he got back to the land by living on a farm where he grew produce for his recipes. Upon returning again to MA, Husbands opened Tremont 647 (www.tremont647.com) in 1996 and then took over the spot next door in 2000, turning it into the popular sister space (that is named for his sister) Sorel. Most recently, Husbands revolutionized the MA barbecue scene with his mouth-watering Smoke Shop (www.thesmokeshopbbq.com).

When asked what made him want to open his own place, Husbands maintains that it was simply part of the evolution of his life.

“I didn’t really have a plan, per se,” he admits. “I am a guy who walks down many paths and sometimes one leads somewhere and sometimes it turns back and you try another one.”
Having originally returned to the Boston area to take advantage of a proposed partnership with an established restaurateur, Husbands ended up sitting down with long-time friend and barbecue buddy Chris Hart and blue sky-ing about their futures.

“We started dreaming big,” Husbands recalls, “and all of a sudden, there we are signing the lease!”

While Husbands takes flavors and flair from both coasts, his greatest fame may be from his perennial victories of nationwide barbecue contests, from an appearance on season 6 of “Hell’s Kitchen,” and from his growing library of popular cookbooks (including the latest, Pitmaster, which he co-wrote with Hart).

“Barbecue is about celebration, family, [and] heritage,” Husbands observes. And while he realizes that people may not think of Boston when they think barbecue (though he has been changing that), Husbands points out that when people think of Chinese or French food, they may not think of (or even know of) restaurants in China or France.

“Barbecue is growing everywhere,” he maintains, “and I think it’s really great!”

When asked what stoked the fire in his belly, Husbands again credits Schlesinger.

“Working with Chris,” he says, “I learned what a killer craft it is. When you do a brisket right, it is one of the greatest moments, no matter where you are. So I got passionate about it and started competing with Chris and got deep into the culture and- from there, there has been no looking back.”

As the barbecue passion had so rubbed off on Husbands, when he began to look for a third venue, the format was an easy choice to make.

“Smoke Shop is a passion project,” he says. “I owned Tremont for 20 years, so wanted to make sure my next thing was something to be excited about.”

As passionate as he is about food (perhaps particularly barbecue) and in sharing the lesson she has learned from his many mentors, Husbands is at least just as passionate about giving back to the neighborhood and sharing his success with others. That is why, throughout his career, Husbands has been using his talents to support not only his customers, but his community as well.
“My family’s always been helpful of others and caring for neighbors,” Husbands maintains. “Growing up, I saw that.”

While in RI at school, Husbands worked with a restaurant group the principal of which was on the board of Share Our Strength (www.nokidhungry.org), which strives to combat hunger nationwide. His ties to the organization have been strong ever since. In fact, for over 20 years, Husbands has lent his name and talents to multiple fundraising efforts for SOS, including an annual event that he hosts at Tremont 647 for which both he and his entire staff donate their time and passion to help those who cannot always enjoy a delicious meal. In the process, Husbands and his friends have raised over $200,000 to support the thousands of children in MA and elsewhere who deal with hunger every day.

“As a food service professional,” Husbands reasons, “I feed people so a food-related charity makes sense to me and it is easy to get our team on board about that.”
As his first two venues are in Boston’s South End, Husbands has also worked to help his neighbors through AIDS Action Committee.

“AIDS has affected a lot of people in our community,” he observes, “so we felt that was important to support as well.”
When asked how the two causes go together, Husbands chooses instead to point out a provocative difference.

“An interesting juxtaposition,” he says, “is that between AIDS and hunger, there is a cure for one of them.”

As a host of SOS’s Cooking Matters and honorary chair of the organization’s annual Taste of the Nation fundraisers, Husbands regularly calls upon his many friends and colleagues to use their talents in the kitchen to support those who may have little in theirs.

“The chefs I hang out with are all naturally giving,” Husbands says. “And it is a win-win for everyone involved! I don’t care if you do charity because you are passionate, as I am, or because it is a good marketing plan. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as people benefit.”

After all, Husbands reasons, it costs the same to buy an ad as to feed people, “so why not do what we do?”
When asked what his favorite charity event is, Husbands (who also does work for the Rodman Ride for Kids (www.rodmanforkids.org) and the Forsythe Institute (www.forsyth.org)) humbly replies, “I have done so many, but I am always honored to be asked to cook, because- how cool is it that I get to do what I love and that’ s my donation?”

Chef Chat with Anthony Parise – Entertainment Cruises of Boston (Originally posted 5/17)

 

As Boston Harbor is one of the greatest sustainers of the world’s fish supply, It mat come as no surprise that the new chef on the famed Odyssey cruise and dinner boat (www.entertainmentcruises.com/boston) is so dedicated to sustainable food.

Before serving at Boston’s famed Liberty Hotel, Parise helped raise the food service bar at such tony locales as Aspen, CO, AND Delray Beach and Boca Raton, FL. The fact that he worked at a yacht club in Boca may also make his move to the Odyssey more sensible. Whatever the reasons, however, the ship is more shipshape thanks to his joining the crew. So whether you want a romantic cruise, a night out with the family, or just a great meal with an amazing view, drop anchor on the Odyssey and see what Chef Parise has caught that day.

 

 

MM: How did you get into cooking?

AP: Cooking isn’t something I got into, I always cooked since I was little. My family was very centered around cooking. When I started college, I couldn’t choose a major but I knew that I loved everything. I ended up as an English major until my final semester where I chose to cook only because I was already doing that as a job but it was exciting and offered me so many things to learn and teach.

 

MM: Where was your first professional kitchen experience?

AP: It was at the Charlotte Country Club in Charlotte, NC. I had no experience and they were the first group of Chefs that took the time to invest in me.

 

MM: What is your favorite dish to prepare?

AP: I don’t particularly have one dish! I love making food that I have never made before, creating and learning. If there was a dish that I am very particular about it would be making stocks and sauces. You kind of have to be that way to make them perfect.

 

MM: What is the best part of your job?

AP: Teaching and mentoring. Through the years I have watched many chefs just turn people away and judge others who can’t or are not at the “CALIBER.” I don’t believe in it and never will.

 

MM: Who is your favorite chef in Boston?

AP: I don’t have one, I have never been much of a groupie. I do things the way I feel they need to be done and I follow those who have good hearts and truly believe in food.

 

MM: What do you usually make for yourself at home?

AP: I like using my cast iron so anything I can sauté or baste. But I love sandwiches usually mortadella or cured meats that I find in farmer’s markets.

 

MM: If you could dine with any three people, who would they be?

AP: Julia child, Martin Yan, John Besh

Chef Chat with Tracy Chang – Pagu (Originally posted 5/17)

Growing up in her grandmother’s Cambridge, MA-based Japanese restaurant, Tokyo, Tracy Chang knew her way around a kitchen and around Asian cooking traditions from very early on After serving at Boston’s award-winning O-Ya and then moving to Paris to study pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu, Chang landed alongside chef Martín Berasategui at his three-star Michelin restaurant in Spain. Back in Cambridge, she served as a fellow with Harvard Science + Cooking, working closely with chefs such as Ferran Adria, Jose Andre, and David Chang. All of these people, places, and flavors are now combined in the Chang’s Cambridge-based collaborative creation known as Pagu (www.gopagu.com).

From squid ink Bao buns stuffed with fried to a familial (and deliciously familiar) twist on fried rice to Nantucket Bay scallop sashimi that combines Chang’s heritage and home state (and even adds the olive oil she grew to love in Spain), Pagu’s menu is intended to not only invite and entice but also engage guests from the Cambridge area and far beyond and to draw on the many diverse skills and expertise that the Cambridge area is known for, from academics and biotechnology to music and design.

 

MM: How did you get into cooking?

TC: When I was in grade school, both of my parents worked full time, and so my brothers and I had a nanny who took care of us. I’d cook with her on the weekdays, learning to make baos and dumplings (she was from Northern China), as well as how to sew, knit, and speak mandarin. I cooked with my parents, my grandma and my aunties on Sundays because that’s when everyone had time to get together. Thankfully we all lived within five minutes of each other. We’d make fried rice for Sunday lunch and on Sunday evenings, we’d either go to Grandma’s restaurant, Tokyo, or to go her home to cook dinner together. Grandma made Taiwanese food; my Aunt Jin made Malaysian food. I’ve always considered myself extremely lucky to have been exposed to such variety of food and flavors from a young age, and only having to travel ten minutes round trip!

 

MM: Where was your first professional kitchen experience?

TC: I first cooked professionally at O Ya, a contemporary Japanese restaurant in Boston. My friends lived around the corner and recommended I check out the new Japanese sushi restaurant that was doing things no one else did. I was intrigued and went twice with my mother to check it out; I loved it. It was during my senior year of college, and I realized with each year of school, I was spending more time in the kitchen, than in the library. With the encouragement of friends, I decided to apply for the hostess position, but my heart and soul was always set on the kitchen. I didn’t know what standard procedure was for restaurant interviews. My resume looked and sounded like a finance resume. Thankfully, my buddy Josh was working down the street in advertising and helped me throw together a 23-page photo portfolio of foods I enjoyed cooking. I showed up with dessert, portfolio and an attitude, ready to wash dishes, clean toilets, host guests, schedule reservations, anything. Tim and Nancy, the owners, let me come in twice a week to prep, which months later led to a full-time position.

 

MM: What is your favorite dish to prepare?

TC: I love to make fried rice. Anywhere I am in the world, I cook some version of fried rice–with baby squid in Spain or jambon in Paris. It is the first dish I ever learned to cook, before I was tall enough to reach the stove. It’s also the dish we made most often on Sundays with my parents. We’d even have competitions with my cousins to see whose fried rice was the best. Somehow my cousins were allowed to judge, and I was left to compete against my uncles and aunties!

 

MM: What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is spreading joy and nourishment through food, community and collaboration. I get to work with some of my best friends, to create every day, something that sustains and satisfies others. I get to inspire, enable, take action, and see immediate results. It’s not every day, every profession that one can do all these things.

 

MM: Who is your favorite chef?

TC: It’s hard to pick favorites…but I suppose others wouldn’t be upset if I said my grandma. She was a generous, motivated, detail-oriented, leader of our family, as well as of her restaurant, Tokyo. She would spend countless hours at the restaurant during the week, and still want to cook family dinner for us on Sunday nights at her home. I’ve adopted this practice similarly; it must run in the family. My chef in Spain, Martin Berasategui, used to laugh because I’d go home after 15 hours of work, and still have the energy to cook. When my family visited me in Spain, he told them he had never met anyone with as much energy as I, and more energy than he!

 

MM: What do you usually make for yourself at home?

TC: I love to make omelets. They are simple, quick and satisfying. I also love that when I make them, even though I’ve made hundreds if not thousands over the years, I still push myself to do better each time. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” ethos.

 

MM: If you could dine with any three people, who would they be?

TC: I’d dine with Grandma.

Chef Chat with Mark Sapienza – The Langham Hotel, Boston (Originally posted 5/17)

Those who are fortunate enough to experience the Boston Chocolate Bar know how beautiful and sweet-isfying it is. And when you learn that this weekly cocoa extravaganza is just one of the many marvelous meal offerings at Boston’s historic Langham Hotel (www.langhamhotels.com/boston) it is easy to see why so many people return again and again to eat or to stay.

Since 1998, Executive Chef Mark Sapienza has been overseeing all that is food at the Hotel and regularly enhancing the rich menu of offerings. From the Chocolate Bar on Saturday and the City Brunch on Sunday to other offerings at the award-winning Café Fleuri, as well as the Langham’s famed afternoon tea (served on Wedgwood china, no less!) and the impressive nightlife at BOND restaurant | lounge and the always welcoming Reserve Lobby Lounge, and even including in-room dining for the Langham’s fortunate guests, the Bay State native (the Hotel’s first American-born chef) has an experienced hand in all of it! Combining his love of local produce (that has earned him such accolades as the 2010 Northeast Family Farms Award of Appreciation and the 2014 Massachusetts Oyster Project Award of Recognition) with a contemporary and international flair that comes from years of training at venues all over the world (including an early Italian trattoria, the Brazilian Court Hotel in Palm Beach, the Montauk Yacht Club and Inn, and the world-renowned Claridge’s hotel in London), Chef Sapienza has earned acclaim as an invited guest to the James Beard House, inclusion on the list of Best Hotels Chefs in America, and legions of lip-licking fans who come by The Langham, Boston whenever they are in town or who make special trips for chocolate, seafood, or any of Chef’s other specialties.

 

MM: How did you get into cooking?

MS: I have a big Italian family where cooking and eating together with our extended families was part of our culture.  Professionally, I started college in business management but did not enjoy it so I dropped out and started working at a factory. Without direction, a relative who knew I liked to cook suggest Johnson and Wales. I had never heard of it or even knew there was such a thing as cooking school. I went to an open house in June and then enrolled in the September trimester. I loved and went for four years to get my AS in Culinary and BS in Hospitality Management … the rest is history.

 

MM: Where was your first professional kitchen experience?

MS: At the Holiday Inn Woburn as weekend breakfast cook. I had never cooked before, was just about to start school. I went in on a Friday. The food and beverage director showed me how to “flip” eggs. The next day, I got there at 5:30 am, picked up the keys at the front desk and was on my own until the afternoon cook showed up.

 

MM: What is your favorite dish to prepare?

MS:  I love preparing a big Italian Sunday meal for my family- Antipasto, soup, pasta etc.  My son is in the act now and we make the family “gravy” (tomato sauce) together

 

MM: What is the best part of your job?

MS: Teaching and sharing my experiences with my team. When I was interviewing in college for my internship program, I was asked what I appreciated about the chefs at the school and the answer about them was the same – I said that I hope to be someone like them, that young cooks looked up to for guidance, and I have found it.

 

MM: Who is your favorite chef?

MS:  When I began my career, Jasper White had just opened Jasper’s on Atlantic Avenue in Boston and Lydia Shire was at the Bostonian. I still look up to both for what they did to create the restaurant revolution in Boston.  Presently though, I am still impressed but the detail and commitment of the food of Thomas Keller – simple, uncomplicated with surprises, but detailed with no concessions in the quality and approach.

 

MM: What do you usually make for yourself at home?

MS: A sandwich, anything between bread.

 

MM: If you could dine with any three people, who would they be?

MS: Paul Bocuse, Joël Robuchon and Marc Haerberlin.

 

Chef Chat with Dan Tavan – True Tastes Kitchen (Originally posted 5/17)

Dan Tavan has been fostering an avid love for food his entire life, cooking at home from a young age. After graduating from Cornell’s Hospitality program, he moved home to California, working in both kitchens and dining rooms of several fine restaurants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Napa Valley. While in Napa, he attended the Culinary Institute of America for culinary and wine studies. He then spent five years in various management roles with Danny Meyer’s famed SHAKE SHACK concept, starting at the original location in New York and opening new restaurants in Miami Beach and Boston. After learning from some of the best in the industry, Dan looks forward to starting a new chapter with True Taste Seasonal Kitchen (www.truetastekitchen.com), bringing his Paleo and allergen-friendly seasonal recipes to the Boston market.”

 

MM: How did you get into cooking?
DT: I grew up cooking with my mom, using lots of produce from the garden. I would regularly cook for friends and family and always had a passion for it.

 

MM: Where was your first professional kitchen experience?

DT: After graduating college, I was part of the opening team of Daniel Patterson’s Frisson Restaurant in San Francisco, working garde manger and expediting.

 

MM: What is your favorite dish to prepare?

DT: Osso bucco with risotto Milanese – I learned it from my brother in college and fell in love with braises and risotto.

 

MM: How do you make use of local bounty?

DT: My wife and I have been members of several local organic CSA’s, and I enjoy the challenge of cooking with odd ingredients and using everything available to me.

 

MM: What is the best part of your job?

DT: Feeding people has always been the greatest joy in my life, especially when they love dishes I’m otherwise critical of.

 

MM: Who is your favorite chef?

DT: Massimo Camia’s restaurant in the heart of Barolo served the best meal of my life (lamb chops seared on a hot stone with aromatics and polenta fritters).

 

MM: What do you usually make for yourself at home?

DT: I generally cook Paleo-style dishes at home using our local meat and fish CSA proteins with flavor influences from Thailand, Mexico, and California.

 

MM: If you could dine with any three people, who would they be? DT: Danny Meyer is my favorite person to dine with; we’ve enjoyed several incredible meals together. I’d love my wife to join us along with Thomas Keller.

Chef Chat with William Kovel – Catalyst/Catalyst Cafe (Originally posted 5/17)

A native of Hartford, CT, William Kovel escaped the insurance capital to make his own mark as a chef. Studying with such luminaries as Traci Des Jardins of Jardinière, he moved first to San Francisco, then to London, and then across the US, until finally heading back towards home and settling in Boston at the auspicious Aujourd’hui at the Four Seasons Hotel. When that historic kitchen closed, Kovel jumped the river to Cambridge, MA, where he has been wowing the biotech and bistro-minded foodies of Greater Boston for the past five years at his progressively well-named restaurant Catalyst (www.catalystrestaurant.com) and his latest creation, Catalyst Cafe (www.catalystcafecambridge.com).

No stranger to being busy or to juggling many duties, the father of three is preparing to open a second location around the corner. Catalyst Café is set to focus more on the morning and midday crowds that pile into tech-savvy Kendall Square every day, but will surely not skimp on any of his signature creativity or attention to detail, which are among the attributes that have earned Kovel recognition by Food & Wine and Wine Spectator (he is Level II Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers), as well as a AAA Five Diamond Award and membership in the Chains des Rotisseurs.

MM: How did you get into cooking?

WK: I’ve just always known I wanted to cook.  My first memory of it was an elementary school assignment to write a book and my bio at the end of the book said I was a chef.  There was never a moment where I thought, “maybe I’ll try my hand at finance.”

 

MM: Where was your first professional kitchen experience?

WK: I headed straight for the West Coast after college and landed at Jardiniere under Traci Des Jardin.

 

MM: What is your favorite dish to prepare?

WK: Anything when it’s just my wife and me at home, but if given a full day and whatever ingredients I want, it would be a roast chicken with wild mushrooms and Madeira, potato gratin and a premier cru Burgundy.

 

MM: What is the best part of your job?

WK: The best part of my job is watching our team become leaders over the years.  We promote from within and it’s a great feeling to reward people for hard work and talent.

 

MM: Who is your favorite chef?

WK: There are a lot of talented chefs, but I have to pick Chris Coombs. We’re good friends and he’s the one I actually call.

 

MM: What do you usually make for yourself at home?

WK: I have three toddlers, so we just grill.  It’s a 23-minute window to cook and eat before things get crazy.  Grilled chicken, corn and a tomato salad are go-to dinners in the summer.

 

MM: If you could dine with any three people, who would they be?

WK: For a chef dinner, it would be Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse and Danny Meyer.

Chef Chat with Andy Husbands – Tremont 647/Sorelle/The Smoke Shop (Originally posted 5/17)

 

It would be impressive enough to say that, as chef/owner of Tremont 647 and its sister spot Sister Sorel (tremont647.com/), Andy Husbands has helmed two of Boston’s most beloved restaurants for 20 years. When you discover that he chairs fundraising events for Share Our Strength (www.nokidhungry.org) and contributes time, energy, and food to many other community-minded not-for-profit organizations, he is elevated to the level of mensch monarchy. And when you learn that he is also a member of IQUE team, which perennially wins the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue (and that it was the first winning team from the Northeast, to boot!), that he is also an acclamed cookbook author with his 5th book, PItmaster, being release in Spring of 2017, and that he recently opened his lines-out-the-door (and rightfully so!) BBQ joint The Smoke Shop (www.thesmokeshopbbq.com) in Cambridge’s trendy and tech-crazy Kendall Square, Husbands earns no less a title that restaurant royalty!

So what does the Hell’s Kitchen alumnus and Chris Schlesinger protégé cook for himself on the rare nights when he is home? Matt was able to snag him for a quick sit down (over a plate of ribs, of course) and find out.

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Chef Chat w/ Avi Shemtov – The Chubby Chickpea (Originally posted 7/15)

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Having learned the craft from his father, Chef Yona Shemtov, Avi left the real estate business to open a commissary and food truck in 2010. With a curated menu that features traditional Israeli fare and creative takes thereupon and that makes use of much of Boston’s bounty (including Sam Adams beer!), Avi’s Chubby Chickpea is perennially one of the most popular purveyors in town. When not running the truck or running back to Canton to fill a banquet order, the author of The Single Guy Cookbook (which is a welcomed gift for married men and women too, as it offers recipes that pretty much anyone can do with little fuss or fear of failure) can often be found at charity events or spending time with his family.

What a mensch!

 

Matt’s Meals: How did you get into cooking?

Avi Shemtov: My father came to the States from Israel when he was 22 and stumbled into a job in a hospital kitchen. Somehow he ended up opening his first restaurant just a few short years later and he never looked back. I grew up in the basements and kitchens of his restaurants, and somehow I knew I’d end up in the industry eventually.

 

MM: Where was your first professional kitchen experience?

AS: When I was in high school I worked in the kitchen at the Wonderland Conference Center in Sharon, where I grew up. Other than that, my dad’s restaurants were my only experience until I opened my first place, the original Chubby Chickpea.

 

MM: What is your favorite dish to prepare?

AS: My favorite dish to prepare is halvah- an artisan sesame candy. Sugar work is something I’ve kind of taught myself and I really enjoy messing with the textures and flavors.

 

MM: What is the best part of your job?

AS: The best parts of my job are the passionate customers. My passion for food is based mostly in seeing other people pleased and enjoying what I’ve created and when that happens, it’s magic.

 

MM: Who is your favorite chef in Boston?

AS: I can’t say I have one favorite Chef in Boston. The first name that comes to mind is Dave Becker, whose first restaurant Sweet Basil is my favorite and whom I find personally inspiring. Andy Husbands isn’t only a BBQ champion, but he’s also a champion of some great causes and the industry in Boston. Josh Smith is the most talented and passionate Chef I’ve ever met. David Harnik of the Dining Car is so smart and knows everything there is to know about food- He’s like an encyclopedia of innovative food. I think there’s just so many great chefs in Boston who inspire me.

 

MM: What do you usually make for yourself at home?

AS: My go-to on a weekend is Shakshuka. I like to believe my Shakshuka is the very best in the world. It’s a dish my grandmother passed down to my dad and I kind of revisited after a trip to Israel a few years ago. Fresh tomatoes, soft cheese, roasted lamb and fresh pita- it’s always a hit with my two year old.

 

MM: If you could dine with any three people, who would they be?

AS: Haha, I love this question. I’d have to say Jay-Z, my grandmother on my Dad’s side and my wife Adrien. Jay because he’s been an idol of mine for a really long time, and I like to believe we’d have similar tastes and hopefully he’d pick up the tab. My grandmother because I never really knew her but I am conscious of her spirit and cuisine in everything I cook, so the opportunity to have her eat something I made would make for an unbelievable experience. My wife because she has great taste, in food at least, and her (and our two kids) are who I look most forward to eating with whenever I’m around for a meal.

Chef Chat w/ Brian Dandro – Art Bar Restaurant and Patio (Originally posted 6/15)

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Massachusetts native Brian Dandro has been part of the team at the Royal Sonesta Boston since he came on as Executive Sous Chef in 2008. Since 2011, he has overseen all food and beverage operations, including the new but already wowing ArtBar. Embracing locally-sourced ingredient whenever possible, Dandro makes art on each plate with his creative recipes and arrangements.

Though he was accepted at the prestigious Johnson and Wales University, Dandro chose instead to take “culinary boot camp” at the famed family-owned Castle Restaurant in his hometown of Leicester. It was here that her not only learned how to cook but how to work hard to make each customer and colleague happy.

After five years at the Seaport Hotel/World Trade Center, Dandro crossed the river to become Restaurant Sous Chef at the Hotel @ M.I.T. in Cambridge, which is now Le Meridian. While his local affiliation took a vacation when he opened the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, he soon came back to work for Chef Daniel Bruce as the Sous Chef of Meritage, from which he was “poached” to help redesign operations at the Sonesta. In a matter of months, he made ArtBar one of the most sought out patios and eateries in the region (in part by introducing such creative programs as RatPack Mondays, Beer & Burger Wednesdays and Lobster Fest Fridays) and continues to paint with a prodigious palette for each and every palate.

 

Matt’s Meals: How did you get into cooking?

Brian Dandro: I started washing dishes at 13 and was drawn to cooking right away.  Once I started I never thought of stopping.

 

MM: Where was your first professional kitchen experience?

BD: My first few experiences I must say I didn’t act very professional, so I’ll say it was my apprenticeship at the Castle Restaurant in Leicester MA where I really got serious in the kitchen.

 

MM: What is your favorite dish to prepare?

BD: It changes with the season but I love cooking scallops because it’s easy to throw an extra one in the pan for me to “test” the quality.

 

MM: What is the best part of your job?

BD: Building and developing my team.

 

MM: Who is your favorite chef in Boston?

BD: Everyone is so incredibly talented both in Cambridge and in Boston.  I will say that  I’ve never left Oleana disappointed,  Ana Sortun is amazing at what she prepares; the thought and the ingredients she puts into each dish is just extraordinary.

 

MM: What do you usually make for yourself at home?

BD: I don’t have much time to cook at home but in the summertime I’m grilling any chance I get and when it gets cold I’m making soups.

 

MM: If you could dine with any three people, who would they be?

BD: I love going out with my mother and introducing her to new things, she lived in such a small culinary bubble her whole life. My son because his faces when he tries new foods kill me. After that, it’s anybody that likes to share as I always like to try as many things as I can on a menu.

 

www.artbarcambridge.com

 

 

 

Chef Chat w/ Matt Drummond – Loco Taqueria @ Oyster Bar

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Matt Drummond

Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar

412 West Broadway, South Boston

www.locosouthboston.com

 

The fact that he grew up in in the relatively small town of Williamstown, MA, may somewhat explain how Chef Matt Drummond is able to do so much in such a small space as his latest creation, Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar on West Broadway in South Boston. No matter where he has been, however, he has always been able to bring big flavors and big personality. From his early days in a Greek-Italian pizzeria to a French-style bed and breakfast and the famed Brasserie Jo at the Colonnade Hotel and Temple Bar in Cambridge to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and a popular Italian spot in Providence, Drummond has always been eager to try and combine new flavors and new ideas. At Loco, the Johnson & Wales grad and devoted Pats fan brings together the native New England raw bar with the South of the Border taco preparations and a glistening menu of tequilas to please folks from either old or “new” Southie and to entice visitors from much further afield.

 

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