Part of my passion for what we do: An interview with chef Anthony De Palma of Evviva Cucina

Living a bit north of Boston is a blessing and a curse. I love the access to great restaurants, but sometimes it can be tough finding something of that quality a little closer to home. Finally, though, there are some great spots popping up north of the city including a great Italian restaurant called Evviva Cucina.

Living a bit north of Boston is a blessing and a curse. I love the access to great restaurants, but sometimes it can be tough finding something of that quality a little closer to home. Finally, though, there are some great spots popping up north of the city including a great Italian restaurant called Evviva Cucina. At the helm in the kitchen is Executive Chef Anthony De Palma, who made his bones in all manner of great kitchens (working alongside the likes of Jim Dodge, Chris Douglas, Gordon Hammersly, Chris Slesinger, and Jody Adams), and his skill and passion come across in the great food at Evviva.

Continue reading “Part of my passion for what we do: An interview with chef Anthony De Palma of Evviva Cucina”

Chef Recipes: Pasta Bologenese

Courtesy of Anthony De Palma of Evviva Cucina in Westford, MA.

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Courtesy of Anthony De Palma of Evviva Cucina in Westford, MA.

Continue reading “Chef Recipes: Pasta Bologenese”

Chef Recipes: Ajo Blanco, a chilled almond and garlic soup

A recipe for Ajo Blanco, a chilled almond and garlic soup, courtesy of Katie Button of Cúrate and Nightbell in Asheville, NC.

Courtesy of Katie Button of Cúrate and Nightbell in Asheville, NC. Continue reading “Chef Recipes: Ajo Blanco, a chilled almond and garlic soup”

M.C. Spiedo opens in Boston’s Seaport District

Almost 2 years ago I had one of the greatest meals of my lifetime at Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine. That meal clearly defined in my mind the capabilities of chef/owners Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. So when I heard that they were opening a new restaurant in Boston (sure Ogunquit isn’t FAR, but Boston is a hell of a lot closer), I was thrilled!

Almost 2 years ago I had one of the greatest meals of my lifetime at Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine. That meal clearly defined in my mind the capabilities of chef/owners Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. So when I heard that they were opening a new restaurant in Boston (sure Ogunquit isn’t FAR, but Boston is a hell of a lot closer), I was thrilled! I’m excited to see what Mark and Clark have to offer at M.C. Spiedo, which officially opens today at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, located at 606 Congress Street in Boston.

Continue reading “M.C. Spiedo opens in Boston’s Seaport District”

An evening with Chef Kristen Kish: The autumn preview dinner at Menton

It’s funny how plans can change some times. Originally, I was set to attend the 1st Annual Blizzard Bash presented by the Barbara Lynch Foundation. In a monumental display of irony, the Blizzard Bash was cancelled thanks to, of all things, a blizzard.

It’s funny how plans can change some times. Originally, I was set to attend the 1st Annual Blizzard Bash presented by the Barbara Lynch Foundation. In a monumental display of irony, the Blizzard Bash was cancelled thanks to, of all things, a blizzard.

One of three compensatory options for Blizzard Bash ticket holders was to attend a special dinner at Menton, Barbara Lynch’s youngest brain child and Boston’s only Relais & Châteaux, AAA Five-Diamond, and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property.

Kind of a no-brainer. 

So, I would attend the Autumn Preview Dinner with Chef Kristen Kish. No write up. After all, I’m not a reviewer or critic by any stretch (and have no interest in being such). Just going to sit back and enjoy! No notes. No photos… just enjoy.

Like I said. It’s funny how plans can change sometimes. 

The singular expectation I had walking through the door of Menton was that I was going to have an exceptional meal. But, as anyone who enjoys an evening out will tell you, it’s about more than “just food”. It’s about the whole experience, and on this night I enjoyed an experience that forced my hand. How could I not write something about it?

I know that, for many, hearing the term “fine dining” evokes thoughts of the stuffy and uptight, making them feel intimidated or out of place. Menton is not that. From the moment you walk through the door, you are made to feel at home and comfortable. The dining rooms are impeccable and inviting – the staff friendly and accommodating.

A big part of any dining experience is who we end up dining with, and events like this are no different. I had the pleasure of sharing a table with John and Christine Williams (John is president and CEO of an early stage medical device company called NanElute, and Christine works as Regional Sales & Marketing Coordinator for All-Clad), Vivien Li (President of The Boston Harbor Association), and Chef Susan Regis. Comfortable conversation goes a long way to making a night fly. Before even realizing it, four hours had come and gone!

In those four hours, we were treated to course after course of delicious, seasonal fare expertly paired with wines by Executive Wine Director, Cat Silirie. The winners on the night, for me at least:

  • The lobster served with caviar, lychee and candied hibiscus (the wine pairing for this one was out of this freakin’ world, a 2012 Alois Lageder Moscato Giallo “Vogelmaier”);
  • A perfectly cooked beef sirloin alongside a 3-day beef tongue, beef cheek and a crispy rösti (paired with a 2009 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva, of which I couldn’t help getting a 2nd glass);
  • Dessert. … Now, I’m a fan of chocolate. Like, obsessed. Seriously. I should call someone about it. This dessert had no chocolate. And yet… this may have been the best dessert I’ve ever had. Period. Pecan sandies with crème fraîche, coffee and muscovado. I want this at the end of every meal. Every day. Forever.

The only thing that shined brighter than the 5-course menu was Chef Kristin (this being her debut menu since becoming Chef de Cuisine at Menton). You could feel the pride emanating from her as she introduced each course. These were her  dishes. This was her  show. Her moment. And she absolutely slayed it.

Menton is located at 354 Congress Street in Boston Fort Point neighborhood.



Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine: Celebrating 25 years of memories

So many of us measure our years by the memories we make. Love and loss. Successes and failures. Whether good or bad, our memories are the best mile markers along the road from where we were to where we are. 

“How do you measure a year?” – Jonathan Larson

Many of us measure our years by the memories we make. Love and loss. Successes and failures. Whether with a smile or a tear, our memories are the best mile markers along the road from where we were to where we are. 

A year alone can bring with it a gentle rain of memories. Now imagine the deluge that one might make over 25 years of running “a world class destination restaurant” the likes of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine.

Opened in April of 1988 by chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows rapidly established itself in the culinary world in spite of its somewhat remote location. About those early days Frasier says,  “I remember being asked when we were first opening the restaurant in Maine, ‘What kind of fried clams are you going to serve?’ People didn’t expect a fine dining restaurant, but that’s what we wanted to do.” 

It’s not only what Frasier and Gaeir wanted to do, but in actuality it is what they accomplished. And, they did it well, garnering a plethora of accolades and awards. They would receive multiple glowing reviews from then Boston Globe food critic Robert Levey, something few restaurants at the time could boast. Gene Burns, who hosted ‘Dining Around’ on Boston talk radio station WRKO, declared when Arrows first open that it wasn’t only a great new restaurant, but that it would “change the New England dining scene.” Arrows would be included in a variety of “Best Restaurant” lists compiled by Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appetit Magazine, and Chefs Frasier and Gaier would go on to win the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chefs Northeast in 2010.

Industry recognition is always a source of pride. It creates buzz and interest for a restaurant and a chef, or in this case chefs. But, what has mattered above all things has been the memories that have been created here.

In July, as we walked through the Arrows garden, a garden established in 1992 by Frasier, Gaier and head gardener Robin Barnard, Chef Frasier reminisced, “We were just looking at photos the other day from those early years, and there is a shot of the back of the restaurant right from where we’re standing. There was no garden. Now look at it!” The garden at Arrows is now over an acre and provides the vast majority of produce used at Arrows and its sister restaurant MC Perkins Cove.

In speaking with Chef Frasier about the memories that have come from running Arrows, he mentioned how much he has enjoyed the opportunity to cook for many, both chefs and friends alike, over the years. One in particular warranted being recalled specifically: The first time Julia Child came to dinner.

It was 1991, and Arrows had just reopened for the season. Leading up to that night, the staff knew that Julia was on the books to dine there. Chef Frasier recalls how Lucia Velasco Evans, who had just started working for the restaurant as a pastry assistant, reacted to the news. Frasier said,  “Depite having heard the others chattering about Julia dining at Arrows, she wouldn’t believe it. ‘Why would Julia Child come out here?’”

Without fail, the night arrived. As did Julia Child. 

Her first stop upon arrival was the kitchen. Ever a proponent of women in restaurant kitchens, Julia was glad to see women hard at work in preparation for service. She made a bee line for Lucia and, in that singular voice, asked, “How long have you worked here?” Very little can make a memory stick quite like surprise. No doubt Lucia can atest to that fact!

Yes. Measuring a year, or 25 even, can be done most easily through the memories that were made along the way. Those found here are just a couple of the many for Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, and the men and women who have both worked and dined at Arrows. Even this 25th anniversary will itself serve as a memory some time down the road, undoubtedly with many other mile markers along the way.

Photos: Then and now 

 On Sunday, September 22nd, Arrows will host a special 25th Anniversary Dinner. They will be joined by Jeremiah Tower, Barbara Fairchild, and fellow chefs who competed alongside Clark and Mark on season 4 of Top Chef: Masters. Reservations are still available by contacting Arrows directly at 207-361-1100. The cost of the dinner will be $149 ($195 w/ wine pairing).


A preview of the Rosa Mexicano “Flavors of Mexico” series – Desayuno, a Mexican Breakfast

This past weekend I had the opportunity to preview Rosa Mexicano‘s “Flavors of Mexico” series. The first in the series, Desayuno, or “Mexican Breakfast”, is being served from February 23rd to March 10th at all Rosa Mexicano locations, including their Boston outpost, located at 155 Seaport Boulevard.

With my wife, and a couple of other friends in tow, we made our way over to Rosa Mexicano on a brisk Sunday morning. Mind you, ‘brisk’ in mid-Februrary, especially by the water, equals 30 to 40 MPH wind gusts, but the various dishes we tried did an excellent job of warming us back up!

We started our brunch off with a glass of passionfruit aqua fresca, which lived up to its name and really was quite refreshing. The beverage winner for me, though, was the Chilled Horchata de Coco, a beverage made from coconut infused rice milk and cinnamon. The grown-up version, the Horchata Especial, was phenomenal with the addition of añejo tequila, coffee liquor, and espresso.

From left to right: Chilled Horchata de Coco, El Tule (w/ gin), Horchata Especial, and El Vaquero (w/ tequila and bourbon)
From left to right: Chilled Horchata de Coco, El Tule (w/ gin), Horchata Especial, and El Vaquero (w/ tequila and bourbon)

We had the opportunity to try four dishes from the Desayuno menu: Torrejas de Miel Rellenas, a stuffed french toast consisting of cinnamon-cascabel chile-crusted brioche filled with a mascarpone cheese, and caramelized plantains; Nopales con Huevo, a soft egg scramble with cactus paddle; Machacado con Huevo, a scrambled egg dish with dried shredded beef, jalapeños, tomato, and onion; and Mexico City Chilaquiles, a traditional dish served with a seared, house-glazed ham, scrambled eggs, and a smoky chile sauce. Everything was delicious, but the stand out to me (and my fellow diners) was the Mexico City Chilaquiles. Known as a pick-me-up, the dish brought a warming smokiness in the form of a creamy chile sauce. This dish alone would be sufficient enough reason to make a return trip to Rosa Mexicano! The other highlight was the stuffed french toast, declared by one of my table mates as possibly being “the best french toast I ever had”.

Mexico City Chilaquiles
Mexico City Chilaquiles – The highlight of the morning

During our meal, we spoke about how difficult it can be for restaurants that want to be authentic, and be true to the flavors they’re representing as part of their identity. That’s something the team at Rosa Mexicano are clearly aiming to do with their “Flavors of Mexico” series, having sent a team of chefs to various parts of Mexico to find the necessary inspiration. In my opinion, they did not disappoint. Having made a recent visit to Mexico, and dining at a few local spots in the area, I feel that Rosa Mexicano hit the mark, producing authentic Mexican.  I wouldn’t hesitate to head back to Rosa Mexicano to have another go at their Desayuna menu.

You can see the Rosa Mexicano Desayuno menu on their website, along with a full list of the “Flavors of Mexico” series events. As a point of full disclosure, the dishes served from the Desayuno menu were complimentary, but all opinions expressed herein are my own, and I stand by them. A special thanks to Carolyn Marrans, and Chef Perez!

A love for teaching others to cook: My conversation with Chef Jody Adams of Rialto and Trade Boston

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.

Jody Adams
Jody 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.
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.

Chef by Trade: My conversation with Chef Andrew Hebert of Trade Restaurant

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.

Andrew Hebert
Andrew Hebert

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.

Roaming cooks: Checking in with Chef Adam Gendreau of Staff Meal Boston

If you’re really in to the food scene in Boston, then you know that food trucks have rapidly become a big deal around here. And, if you know about food trucks in Boston, then you know Staff Meal.

Adam Gendreau and Patrick Gilmartin are the Staff Meal Food Truck, and they make some delicious food. They also make headlines, having gone toe-to-toe with a local, purple-cape wearing food TV program about the rights of food trucks in Boston. The point that Staff Meal tried to convey during that back and forth was really a simple one, which I believe rang true in most ears: Whether food truck, or brick and mortar restaurant… all that should really matter in the culinary world is putting out good food. Period.

The Staff Meal guys continue to do just that. The only difference is that for the next few months they’ll be doing it off the streets. If you get a hankering for a Staff Meal fix, you’ll be able to find them popping up at restaurants around Boston (more info after the interview).

I had a chance to touch base with Chef Adam Gendreau, fresh off doing a little guest-chefing at Toro for their 7th Anniversary last night (congrats, again, to Ken, Jamie, Mikey and the whole Toro team!). During the interview we touched on how Adam got his start, what it was like transitioning to working a food truck, and what’s officially on tap for Staff Meal over the winter months.

Adam Gendreau of Staff Meal Boston
Adam Gendreau of Staff Meal Boston

Foodie Journal: When was it that you realized that food and cooking was something you were passionate about?
Adam Gendreau: My old man was a chef, so I grew up helping him cook. When I was younger, I used to love to cook at home, for friends and roommates. When I was 17 I got a job as a software engineer for a consulting company. I did that for a few years until I burned out and wanted more of a challenge. I somehow was able to talk Jody Adams into giving me a job picking and cleaning herbs at Rialto. Somewhere in between her telling me how [SALTY] I was at picking herbs, and now, I realized cooking professionally was wicked fun.

FJ: So is that where you end up getting your start in the industry?
AG: [At] Rialto restaurant in Harvard Square. I had some very patient and forgiving teachers.

FJ: You started off in a restaurant environment, then you and Patrick made the jump to food trucks. Was it rough making that transition, especially considering how new food trucks were in the Boston area at the time?
AG: It was a very rough transition. There’s a common misnomer in this city that you can pull up with a truck wherever you’d like, and start making a ton of money selling food. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You might have 4 to 5 months of profitability. Then in the fall and winter months you have to work 5 times as hard to make 5 times less money. And, we’re just plain idiots for thinking that we could cook the style of food that we do, while having to rent hourly kitchen space.

FJ: So as the winter starts to kick in, you’re looking to get off the streets. Don’t think any natives are gonna blame you for that! You’ve got some pop-ups planned at District during the month, and you just finished up cooking at Toro Restaurants’s 7th anniversary. How do you approach cooking in someone else’s kitchen like that?
AG: Yeah we’re hoping to sustain our business through the winter off the streets. We’re so much more comfortable serving food to folks in a restaurant environment, so we’re going to do that. We’ve been cooking for a long time so we’ve learned to be pretty resourceful with how we heat and serve food. Once you’ve cooked food on a truck year round, any indoor space looks appealing.

And, truth be told, the Toro crew did most of the work cooking our menu. They were nice enough to feed us and get us drunk while we watched them tear it up behind the line.

FJ: What’s up next for you guys over the next few months, then?
AG: We have a regular, recurring pop-up planned for the next few months. We’re hoping to find something more permanent, and most importantly indoors, soon. Still deciding on whether or not we want to take the truck out in Boston next year. Not sure if we can stomach participating in the ridiculous food truck lottery system the city has implemented. Again.

FJ: Last, but not least, my favorite question – what’s your favorite personal food memory?
AG: Accidentally feeding a vegetarian corn chowder with a [SALT]load of bacon in it. She loved it and gave us a nice write-up on Chowhound about the incident. If I had a nickel for every vegetarian we’ve served meat to… I would have, like, 42 nickels. Math is hard.

Staff Meal will be popping up at District, located at 180 Lincoln Street in Boston, on the 18th, 21st, 22nd, 27th, 28th and the 29th of December, serving dinner from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Here’s the expected menu, but check out their Twitter feed to stay on top of all the Staff Meal happenings.