The 50 Best Restaurants 2012: Flying Solo
Meet five chefs whose new restaurants have a chance to land on next year's 50 Best list. Check out all of our 50 Best Restaurants 2012 coverage.
From left:Â Louis DiBiccari,Â Tim Wiechmann, Will Gilson,Â Michael Pagliarini, and Alex Crabb. (Photo by Scott M. Lacey / Styling by Molly Shuster)
What do these talented chefs all have in common? They’ve each recently opened (or will soon) a new restaurant that has a chance to land on next year’s 50 Best list. They’re also pushing back against the notion that the independent, chef-driven restaurant is an endangered species in Boston. Conventional wisdom has it that you’d have to be crazy to try a new project in this climate of expensive real estate, breathtaking liquor-license prices (as much as $435,000 in the Back Bay), and competition from the extravagant, and remarkably successful, big-box chains in the Seaport. Well, donât tell that to these guys.
Restaurant: Tavern Road + TR Street Food (attached concepts)
Location: Fort Point
Opening: This winter
RĂ©sumĂ©: Sel de la Terre, Storyville
The Elevator Pitch: âItâs rustic, scratch cooking. Totally casual, high-energy, a really hip space. TR Street Food will be focused on lunch. I want to do our version of street food.â
Menu Snapshot: Sweetbreads with guanciale and cippolini onions.
Inspiration: âI have a lot of history in the arts community in the city. This restaurant doesnât have any confines. We want the restaurant to be a blank canvas at all times.â
The Challenge: âA lot of success comes from getting your ego out of the workplace a little bitâand if youâve hired the right people, let them show you why they are talented. Let them have some creative freedom. At 24 and at 29, I wasnât ready to do that with anyone. At 37, I get it a little bit more.â
On Opening a Restaurant Right Now: âIf youâre not in favor of whatâs going on with social media, or think itâs a flash in the pan, you are out of your mind. Nothing will ever make up for bad service or bad food, no matter how good you are with your social media. But you need to adjust to whatâs going on in the world.â
RĂ©sumĂ©: Sel de la Terre, Ten Tables J.P., T. W. Food
The Elevator Pitch: âItâs a European bistro with influences from Germany, Italy, and Eastern Europe.â
Menu Snapshot: Handcut Swabian KĂ€sespĂ€tzle with house-cured bacon.
Inspiration: âI have always liked making sausages, so I decided to make that a major component of the restaurant. I also eat a lot of farm-to-table food, and I like Italian food.â
The Challenge: âItâs a risky business, and you have to commit a lot of time to it. Even for people like me who are very committed to it, itâs daunting. We are going into a new neighbor-hood, and there are those cultural challenges to being accepted. You have to step gingerly and be careful, or you could be standing in front of an empty restaurantâwhich I have done. It happens.â
On Opening a Restaurant Right Now: âI like the enthusiasm that everyone has, and the relationships all the way through the food chainâfrom the farmer all the way to the diner and everything in between. Itâs a good city where people are psyched for things. But you know, there could be a lot of conversation about a restaurant and it still comes down to having people come to the door.â
Restaurant:Â Puritan & Co.
Location: Inman Square
RĂ©sumĂ©: The Herb Lyceum, Oleana, Garden at the Cellar, Eat at Adrianâs
The Elevator Pitch: âThe food is going to be seasonal, fun, New England, progressive, and tasty.â
Inspiration: âA lot of the design and the feel of Puritan & Co. has to do with the Herb Lyceum [Gilsonâs family farm in Groton]. Whatâs really going to drive the restaurant is kind of selfish for me. I want you to eat my food in my environment.â
Menu Snapshot: Quahog âstuffieâ croquettes with Aleppo pepper, served on the half shell.
The Challenge: âMy architect is my construction manager, and Iâm doing a lot of the design. Itâs fun, but it adds another line in the Yelp review if someone is upset with the design of the restaurant. If someone says, âThe music sucked, the food sucked, and I didnât like the design,â I take responsibility.â
On Opening a Restaurant Right Now: âIf I have a customer coming in now who understands that serving duck with its feet on is okay and not creepy, itâs great. People are more adventurousâthey are okay with having things served with bones in it, and eating around it. The years of the boneless, skinless chicken breast and super-thick steak with Sysco fries are kind of done.â
Location: Between Harvard and Porter Squares
RĂ©sumĂ©: Radius, Via Matta
The Elevator Pitch: âWe are going to have an emphasis on specialty handmade pastas, and it will follow a traditional Italian progression. Itâs absolutely going to have our own interpretations and a modern twist.â
Menu Snapshot: Lobster-stuffed tortellini with chive-and-lobster-stock butter sauce and Umbrian truffles.
Inspiration: âI fell in love with Italian food at Via Matta. Those are the flavors I go to most often when I am cooking at home.â
The Challenge: âItâs a long, long process. Itâs really the patience. I looked at 10 or 12 properties, and youâd think something was going to work out, and it wouldnât. Itâs the patience, and remembering why you did this, and staying true to the vision that you had in the first place. You have to write it down and put it on your fridge.â
On Opening a Restaurant Right Now: â[In Cambridge,] I am encouraged every day when I go to Simonâs, or Hi-Rise, or Chez Henri. I am encouraged by the amount of people out and about. We are excited and confident about the environment right now.â
Location: Back Bay
RĂ©sumĂ©: LâEspalier, Atwoodâs Tavern, Lineage
The Elevator Pitch: âItâs a strictly tasting-menu restaurantâitâs going to be high-end food, but a much more laid-back atmosphere.â
Menu Snapshot: Coriander-crusted scallops with beet-braised toasted farro, white-bread purĂ©e, and fresh thyme.
Inspiration: âThe two mentors I have in this cityâFrank McClelland of LâEspalier and RenĂ© Becker at Hi-Riseâcook at opposite ends of the spectrum, and I try to keep both of them in mind whenever I do anything.â
The Challenge: âAs it becomes so personally mine, I will get more sensitive and wonât be able to stomach reading the Yelp reviews. I will have my sous chef do it for me, and sort of edit what he tells me to protect me from it.â
On Opening a Restaurant Right Now: âWhat we are doing in New England has gotten really sophisticated. The product is so much better than it was 10 years ago. The education of the consumer, and the cook, and the farmer, has gotten so much better, and thereâs such interesting cheese and dairy coming out of New England right now. You have to be excited.â
Check out all of our coverage forÂ 50 Best Restaurants 2012.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/10/50-best-restaurants-2012-5-chefs-flying-solo/