Cochon 555 in Boston went down on March 24th. A fantastic evening filled with porky goodness saw Michael Scelfo of Russell House Tavern was crowned the Boston King of Porc. This year was also the first year for “Punch Kings”, a cocktail competition featuring Breckenridge Bourbon. Taking the Punch King win was Kevin Mabry from jm Curley.
I’m a little late to the party on posting a follow up to the Cochon 555 event held on March 24th at the Revere Hotel Boston Common. But, when an event turns out such incredible food from some of the most talented chefs in the city of Boston… better late than never.
The over 500 attendees were privy to all sorts of porky goodness from Chefs Colin Lynch, Jody Adams, Michael LaScola, Michael Scelfo, and Brian Young. Only one of the chefs, though, would be crowned King (or Queen) of Porc. That honor went to Michael Scelfo of Russell House Tavern (full menus from all the participating chefs can be found just below the photos).
This year was also the first year for “Punch Kings”, a cocktail competition featuring Breckenridge Bourbon. Taking the Punch King win was Kevin Mabry from jm Curley.
One of the additional takeaways from the event, for me at least, was the impressive amount of culinary volunteers, mostly culinary students coming from Cambridge Culinary and Johnson & Wales. Through a raffle that was held, the winners walking away with a variety of pig parts butchered on site by Michael Dulock of M.F. Dulock, Cochon 555 was able to raise $1,000 which would be donated to the culinary schools in attendance.
Jello Shot Gordon & Macphail 1999 Caol Ila Single Malt Scotch The Citizen’s Single Barrel, natural gelatin, maple Fried Bologna Sandwich Mortadella, brioche, kumquat mostarda Nose to Tail Terrine Sweet & hot pickle relish Rice Crispy Treats Chicharones, blood, bacon caramel Inside Out Pig’s Head Chocolate, head cheese mousseline, luxardo cherries, citrus
I suppose its funny that I saved this interview, the third in a three part series on lineage and teaching in the kitchen (Part 1 | Part 2), for last. But, I thought it to be the most fitting conclusion. After all, speaking with the student always gives you a glimpse of the teacher. In speaking with Chefs Andrew and Brian, it’s clear to see that Chef Jody Adams is, in fact, exactly that. A teacher.
The key component to any lineage, any strong legacy, is a passionate and knowledgeable teacher. Someone who can take that passion and knowledge, and transfer it to others. While its obvious that we could go much further back in time, for the sake of this discussion, it all starts with Chef Adams.
Foodie Journal: When was it that you discovered that you had a love for food? Jody Adams: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. When I was in high school, I cooked a lot. I didn’t just bake. I know baking is something kids do a lot, but I actually cooked. I spent a month in Morocco when I was 14, and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen there. Then, I spent a summer in Guatemala when I was 16, and spent a lot of time in the kitchen while I was there as well. My mother was a good cook, so by the time I got to high school I found that I was very comfortable in the kitchen. I didn’t have any expectations that it would become a profession for me, though.
FJ: Was there a favorite dish that you enjoyed cooking? JA: I loved cooking an elaborate couscous. I also liked to make moussaka, or gnocchi. All kinds of things, really.
FJ: You mentioned that you didn’t have expectations that food would become a profession for you, something evidenced by the fact that you have a degree in anthropology. When was it that a career as a cook became an option for you? JA: I was 25 years old. After graduating from Brown, I spent some time trying to decide what I wanted to do. I thought maybe I wanted to be a nurse practitioner, so I was back in school taking some science and nursing courses so that I could apply for a masters program. As I was doing it, though, I started to realize it wasn’t really compelling for me, you know? And, I just couldn’t start a life wondering, “Well, maybe.” So I ditched that. I’d been working at a gourmet food store, and for a catering company. I’d been working with food almost my entire life, and suddenly I realized, “Oh my god! There it is, right in front of me. This is what I’m supposed to do.” So I sent a bunch of applications out, and managed to get some interviews at some places around Boston. I was lucky enough to get hired by Lydia Shire at Seasons.
FJ: Was working in a professional kitchen different from what you had experience up to that point? JA: It was a bit of a roller coaster for me in the beginning. Working for a gourmet food store, or a catering company, or at home is all very different from cooking in a fast paced restaurant. I didn’t cook fast, so I had to learn how to cook fast fast!
FJ: You obviously picked up a lot of what you know about cooking while working in kitchens. Do you feel like you missed out on something by not getting the chance to go through culinary school, or was jumping right in to the mix the best education for you? JA: I think there are many ways to skin a cat. I don’t regret the liberal arts education that I went through. In fact, I think having the degree I have let me think about food a bit differently. Where it comes from? Why it evolved the way it has? I think it has served me very well in my style of cooking. I definitely have learned a lot on the job. [PAUSES] I don’t know how to do ice sculptures. FJ: [LAUGHS] JA: I don’t know how to do fancy garde manger work with gelatins and all that stuff, but I don’t miss that. I think that when you go to cooking school you get a foundation, sort of a toolbox of skills. I think for me, I just had to find that along the way.
FJ: It sounds like learning, and teaching in a kitchen is a really important thing in the industry. Is that something you enjoy? JA: I’ve been at this for 30 years now, and that’s not how long I’ve loved cooking. That’s just how long I’ve been working in the industry, but for me it really holds the same excitement. I actually went to visit my son in New York recently, and he had some of his friends over. So my daughter and I took some food, and we cooked at his apartment. We made short ribs, and mashed potatoes, and bok choy and kimchii. We drank lots of beer. It was just fabulous for me, being able to cook with these young people and teach how to put things together. So, it still really excites me at that level. I’m very connected to it at its core, how exciting it is to teach people how to cook. I teach cooking classes once a month at the restaurant, and my husband and I have a blog we do to teach recipes for the home cook called The Garum Factory. So, I stay very connected to the whole idea of teaching.
FJ: My final question for you, Jody. Everyone that loves food typically has a particular food memory that they love as well. What’s yours? JA: Many, but I can tell you one. I was in Palermo. I was alone, waiting for a friend of mine that was flying in that evening, so I had the day to myself. I looked down an alley and saw a guy leaning over a little grill. He had this little tiny grill set up with artichokes in the coals, and he was grilling sausages. So we started talking a little. My Italian is not great, and he didn’t speak English, but we still managed. I asked him what he was doing, and he tried to explain it to me, and suddenly it was like I was in a movie. The window shutters across the way opened. This woman leaned out, clearly his wife. Then three of his adult children popped their heads out the window, and there was all this conversation back and forth. Out of nowhere they brought out a chair and made me sit down. They brought out a plate. They got me some warm Coke, and they fed me right there in the alley. He was obviously cooking dinner for them! They were about to have their family dinner. I was a perfect stranger to him, but there it was. Those are the kind of memories that I have. My memories are always of very simple expressions of hospitality, with delicious, simple food. The artichokes were unbelievable. They were charred, and they were yummy, and all it involved was just artichokes cooked in coals. Simple.
Jody Adams is chef and co-owner of restaurants Rialto, and Trade. Rialto is located at 1 Bennett Street, Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Trade is located at 540 Atlantic Avenue in Boston.
In the first part of this interview series, we got to know Andrew Hebert, the Executive Chef of Jody Adams’ newest restaurant in Boston. Trade opened to much fanfare, and went on to be voted Boston Magazine’s Best New Restaurant of 2012. The award serves as testament both to the team responsible for the work that goes on day-in and day-out at Trade, and also to just how strong a factor lineage can be. Chef Adams established the ethic; the way to get things done. Chef Hebert carries that torch, and with much success.
Long before Trade, there was Rialto. Helping to keep the home fires burning is Chef de Cuisine Brian Rae.
Rialto has become an institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Not only can you sit down to enjoy a meal, a mix of local ingredients prepared with traditional Italian culinary techniques, but you can learn to make your own. Rialto offers up cooking classes, open to anyone wanting to learn. Teaching is in the fabric of this restaurant, and those that work there. It is one of just a few things that came up during my conversation with Brian Rae.
Foodie Journal: At what point did you discover that you had a love for food, and wanted to turn it in to a career? Brian Rae: Well, I went in to culinary school straight out of high school. So, I guess it was in high school, really. I used to work in delis, restaurants, and catering companies when I was in high school. So I think it just developed there.
FJ: And, you went to the Culinary Institute of America, right? BR: I did, yeah. FJ: Can you speak a little about how you think culinary school can be beneficial for someone making the decision to get in to the food industry? BR: Well, I feel like culinary school is great for someone just coming out of high school. They’re used to learning in that classroom environment, and culinary school really can expose you a large variety of things in a very short amount of time. I don’t think it’s the only way to become a cook, but it’s a good option.
FJ: What do you think are the differences between someone that just jumps in feet first, learning while they work in a restaurant, versus someone that went for a more formal culinary education? BR: I think that eventually you have to jump in, regardless. It’s a process you have to go through. Even when you’re coming out of culinary school, you’re still very, very green. Going to culinary school does expose you to a lot of things, but its not like you’ve had the opportunity to do them so many times that you can say you’re an expert in something. You’re still very much a beginner. But, going to culinary school can at least help to expose you to what all the possible options are in the industry and really help you decide which direction you want to take your career. FJ: So rather than mucking about, unsure of what career path they want to take in the industry, a culinary student might have a better sense of direction. Know where they want to head? BR: Yeah, exactly. It gives you a little perspective.
FJ: Once you graduated from the CIA, where do you get your start restaurant wise? BR: I went to Nantucket, and ended up working at a place called the Straight Wharf Restaurant for several summers. After culinary school I actually went on to a regular college, believe it or not. So while I was doing that, I would work at the Straight Wharf during the summers.
FJ: In reading a little about you, I saw that you went out to Las Vegas and actually were named Las Vegas Rising Star Chef. BR: Yeah, that was a few years ago. FJ: Does winning an award, any award, change how you approach being a chef? BR: Well, any award, I think, increases the pressure. It increases the expectations people might have when they’re coming in and are going to try your food. So, you do have to kind of up your game. The more recognition, the better you have to be. That’s ultimately what people expect. But, I really love the scene. I loved Las Vegas.
FJ: What was the lure to bring you back to New England having been there? BR: There were a couple of issues, really. My wife and I are both from New England originally, so being away from family was tough. The economic downturn, though, really played a big part. There was a lot of belt-tightening going on in the casinos, and by extension in the restaurants as well. So, things kind of started to get a little weird. It just made sense at that time to come back east.
FJ: When you made your way back to the New England, you ended up work at Rialto. Can you talk a little about the team there, and having the opportunity to work with Chef Jody Adams? BR: When I got back east, I was real happy to be somewhere that had so many local farms and producers. Las Vegas has some, but not nearly as many as we have here. So, it was really nice coming in to Rialto where Jody already had connections with so many different local vendors and farmers. It was really easy to find my way in getting all these great local products. The team at Rialto is great. We have a 20-year history, so there are a lot of people that have come through the restaurant that respect and love it. The team we have right now is really great. We’re all friends that get along, and are there because we love food. It’s not a job so much as it is something that we just love to do. I think we do a good job of reflecting Jody’s love and passion.
FJ: I know that Chef Adams loves sharing her passion for food with others, teaching them how to do things in the kitchen. A great example of that are the cooking classes that are held at Rialto. As a person at the head of a kitchen, how important is it to be a teacher? BR: It’s one of the keys to running successful restaurants. You have to train your cooks. Teaching is a necessity. You also have to hire people that are willing to be trained. I just don’t think there is any other way to do it. You have to do things that way, or else you’re not going to be successful. FJ: Is it something you enjoy? BR: Yeah! I love putting a cook on to a new station. They might be nervous, some might be confident, but its fun to work with them during those first few days. Then when they make it through a busy night on their own, it’s a great thing to see. Reminds me of when I was a bit younger. I love talking about being a line cook. So, yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
FJ: Final question for you… do you have a food memory that you really love? BJ: I always look forward to Christmas Eve dinner. My family kind of always does its version of the Italian ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes’. It’s always my favorite meal of the year with my family. We have all sorts of things, like lobster, it’s just a great meal. It’s course, after course, after course. It goes for at least 3 hours. That’s probably one of my favorite food memories. It’s actually possibly the best kind of memory since it keeps repeating!
Brian Rae is the Chef de Cuisine at Rialto Restaurant. Rialto is located at 1 Bennett Street, Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
It’s interesting how lineage goes so much further than skin and bone. If someone asked us about our lineage, any one of us would think of our parents, grandparents, mother-lands. But, that isn’t the only lineage that makes us who we are. Even in our professions, we are the product of a lineage. Those who came before us. A boss. A mentor. Someone who took the time to help ensure our feet were on the right path.
This lineage is particularly strong in the food industry. Chefs consistently bring fresh, young talent in to their kitchens, and begin the molding process. Those cooks go on to run kitchens of their own, and the process begins anew. It is an aspect of the culinary world that I was fascinated by, and wanted to learn more about. So, I reached out to Chef Jody Adams, chef and co-owner of Rialto in Cambridge, and Boston Magazine’s Best New Restaurant of 2012, Trade.
For the first part of this three-part interview series, I had the opportunity to speak with the Executive Chef of Trade Restaurant, Andrew Hebert. We touch on how he got his start in the industry, the impact that the chefs he has worked for have had on him, and how he approaches teaching his staff.
Foodie Journal: When was it that you realized you wanted to get involved with the food industry? Andrew Hebert: Well, I guess it all stemmed from my family. A meal with the family at the dinning room table was a big deal to us. Everybody in the family would contribute to the meal. I always had fun with that. Then when I was in the 11th grade, in high school, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go to school, I started thinking of the restaurant industry. I hadn’t worked in a restaurant, and my dad said, “If you’re really going to do this, you need to try working in a restaurant.” So, I did that for a summer, and I immediately fell in love with it. It really came natural to me. Not just the food part, but also the whole environment. Being in the kitchen, not sitting around. The idea of sitting behind a desk never really appealed to me. The fact that I was on my feet all day, walking around, being active really did appeal to me as well.
FJ: If you could, tell me a little bit about your first experience in a restaurant kitchen. AH: Sure. I ended up working at a place called The Trellis, in Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia. The clientele there is a little bit higher end than some of the other restaurants in the area. The chef who owned the restaurant [at the time], his name is Marcel Desaulniers. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, had a bunch of cookbooks out. He was really well known; the restaurant was really well known in the area. It was a great place for a first job! I started working there as a busboy, from there I went to working in the kitchen plating salads and desserts. So, that’s what I did that first summer. FJ: What came after that summer? AH: I went to culinary school. Actually, after I graduated, I ended up going back to The Trellis and worked there for about a year and half, two years. I worked every station in the place. When I left, I was basically like a kitchen supervisor where I was closing the restaurant, which gave me the opportunity to get some management experience as well. It’s really where I learned the most about cooking, and technique. It was a great foundation for me when I decided that I wanted to move up to New England.
FJ: Now obviously culinary school is really a great place to get those fundamentals, like knife skills, technique. Do you feel like you ended up getting more from that, or was it the restaurant experience that really kind of solidified for you what you needed to do to be successful? AH: That’s a great question, and really its one that every chef and cook hears a lot. “Is it worth going to culinary school?” They are two different things, and it also really depends on your personality. When you’re working in a restaurant kitchen, you learn a lot. I feel like I absorbed a lot more. I’m a very visual learner, so doing it over and over, day in and day out really helped. With culinary school, each class is limited to a specific number of hours, so they try to pack as much information in as they can, and before you know it you’re on to the next class, you know? You go from a class about baking and pastries, then to a garde manger class, then to sauces. It’s overwhelming, and you end up thinking, “Whoa, that was way too much, way too fast.” But, my experience at Johnson & Wales was great. I learned a lot. I learned more about the why behind doing things, as opposed to how to do it. FJ: Like theory, almost? AH: Right. Then when you’re in a restaurant you end up learning how to do things, and don’t end up hearing why you’re doing it that way.
FJ: Now after you came to Boston, you ended up working for Chef Jody Adams. Can you speak a little about how working under such a reputable chef has impacted your career and how it impacted the type of chef you’ve become? AH: I’ve worked with Jody in some way pretty much since I moved to the area, so it’s been about 8 years. Maybe 9 years. I went to Blu, and at the time Jody was a part of the restaurant group that owned the restaurant, and she was the chef. So, everything was pretty much overseen by her, though she did have an executive chef on site running the kitchen, so most of my interaction was with him. But, I really feel like I did experience her initially through him. Jody rubs off on her chefs. She really makes sure that the way she goes about dealing with her staff is replicated by her executive chefs in every restaurant she’s involved with, whether it’s Rialto or here at Trade. She’s very nurturing. She’s not one of those chefs that will yell at you about things. If there is an issue, she helps to figure out what the solution to the problem would be rather than just pointing it out and moving along. So I’ve learned that from her, and from the other chefs I’ve worked with. It’s something I’ve tried hard to replicate here at Trade. I try to be that kind of chef as well. I want to make sure it’s a positive work environment. People learn a lot more instead of being made to feel stupid, or small. It makes them realize how to do things better, and how to figure out what they might be doing wrong and be able to fix it.
FJ: For you as an executive chef, how important do you think it is to be a teacher in the kitchen when dealing with your staff? AH: I think it’s very important. Some chefs may not have the patience for it. They just tell their staff to do something without really telling them why. For me, I think that when you are in a high-end kitchen, and you expect to get high-end results you need to explain why things need to be done a certain way. It just makes sense to me that if one of my cooks is going to be able to do something well, they’ll need to understand why they’re doing it. And, if they know why they’re doing it, they might be able to think of ways that they can do it better. So, that’s very important to me.
FJ: My final question is a pretty straightforward one, or at least I think it is. It may not be an easy one for someone in the industry. What’s your favorite food memory? AH: I actually have two. I remember when I was 9 years old. We were in Germany at the time. My parents would take my sister and me on little weekend adventures to different countries, like to Italy or to England. Sometimes we’d just get in the car and drive. One time I remember us going to an Italian city on the Adriatic Sea, and my parents gave me fried calamari to try. I had no clue what it was, and they wouldn’t tell me, but I thought it was amazing. Once they told me what it was, I kind of freaked out a little bit at first, but it really sparked in me that interest to try different things. The other memory for me has to do with my mom. She comes from a big Italian family. So, I remember when I was very little visiting my grandmother and eating all the dishes she would make, like lasagnas and what not. My mom, though, had a dish she used to make all the time, which was cioppino. She makes it every Christmas, so to this day that’s something we always do at Christmas time. It’s one of my favorite dishes, one that I will always love. It reminds me of home.
Andrew Hebert is the Executive Chef of Trade Restaurant. Trade is located at 540 Atlantic Avenue in Boston.
Unfortunately, this is one of those weeks when I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and write. Despite that fact, I haven’t been resting on my laurels. I’ve been hard at it setting up the next cookbook giveaway for December, and if you’re a fan of Eric Ripert you’ll want to stay tuned. Also have been pushing hard to get more interviews. Two have already gone down this week (awaiting transcription), with two more scheduled for the rest of the week. Included in these are an interview with one of Boston’s best, Chef Jody Adams of Rialto and Trade. I’m also thrilled to let you know that I was able to get time with one of the originators of California Cuisine, the legendary Chef Jeremiah Tower (I can barely believe it myself!).
So while this is a quiet week for The Foodie Journal (only as far as postings are concerned, I promise), there is a ton of great stuff on the way. Stay tuned!