Reconsidering Todd English
Twenty years after Olives exploded onto the scene in a hail of garnishes and shaved truffle, its celebrity-chef founder has gone from golden boy to tourist-feeding hack in the eyes of Boston’s food establishment. Problem is, we’ve been judging him by the wrong measures all along.
Todd English wants you to understand that. Not you the Boston gourmand, but you the Bostonian, period. Because the man does have some pride, and it would be nice to be appreciated in the place he still calls home.
“I’m Boston-based,” he says, a tad chagrined to be asked. “Absolutely. My kids are here and my Sox seats are too good, right on third base.” He’s in the final stages of renovating a $3 million carriage house on Beacon Hill. “It has a huge atrium feel,” he says. “Thirty-five-foot ceilings, three fireplaces. We opened it up and put the kitchen in the center.” The space, he says, will serve as his new test kitchen. Indeed, the globetrotter finds a special solace in this city. He attends his kids’ sports games—daughter Isabelle and son Simon are in school in Chestnut Hill (the oldest, Oliver, is at Cornell)—and has Sunday dinner at his mom’s house in Charlestown a couple of times a month.
There are no new Boston projects in the works. Two years ago plans were scuttled for a burger joint called Oliver’s in Post Office Square, and that may have been all to the good. Maybe avoiding another brand extension spared him some eye-rolling from the critics—which would have further distracted from the legacy he’s owed for creating Olives and catalyzing the Boston food scene. Granted, his trajectory in the intervening years may offend purist (not to mention parochial) sensibilities, but it doesn’t negate his singular contributions. Why not raise a glass to a local boy made good? Better yet, an English-branded “Italian Elegance” coffee mug? The full dinnerware set is $69.95, plus shipping and handling, at HSN.com.
[sidebar]Amy Traverso is Boston magazine’s food editor.