Chef Michael Scelfo shares his secrets for the ultimate al fresco dinner party.
Michael Scelfo and his wife, Ellen, toast the season with their friends. (Photos by Kristin Teig / Food Styling by Molly Schuster)
Chef Michael Scelfo spends approximately 60 hours a week in the kitchen at Harvard Square’s Russell House Tavern, but his favorite place to cook is actually inside his 113-year-old Holliston house. “It’s so peaceful,” he says. “I’m home, I’m comfortable, and the music is just the way I want it.”
Scelfo, who will leave Russell House to open his first solo restaurant later this year, redesigned his 700-square-foot home kitchen in 2010, creating an unusually wide layout (7.5 feet between the stove and opposite counter) for maximum fluidity. “The large, open format has a circular flow to it, with an oversize island in the middle,” he says. “It allows me to cook and socialize at the same time.” Given how much Scelfo and his wife, Ellen—a buyer and manager for the KGirl and Kenzie Kids boutiques in Chestnut Hill—love to entertain, this was a crucial aspect of the remodel. “You do want to be able to hang out with your guests,” he says.
Scelfo also incorporated luxe touches like a custom cobalt-blue BlueStar range, white Carrera-marble countertops, and a computer workstation with a 27-inch monitor, used mostly for cataloging recipes. To warm things up, he added shelving and accents made of salvaged wood.
When the weather is balmy, Scelfo moves things outside, where he likes to grill on the patio. Ahead, with help from friends Josh Childs (of Trina’s Starlite Lounge and Silvertone) and TJ and Hadley Douglas (of the Urban Grape), he shows us how to throw a spring-themed fete full of fresh ingredients and bold flavors.
THE MENU (serves 8)
• Crushed pea, mint, and mascarpone crostini with shaved radish salad
• Braised short ribs with ginger-and-lime shrub
• Whole grilled black bass with spicy lime sauce and green-curry aioli
• Pickled spring vegetables with toasted barley and chanterelles
• Ellen’s strawberry-and-basil buckle with black-pepper ice cream
• TJ and Hadley Douglas’s “The Wandering Poet” cocktail
“When you come into our home, I want you to feel like it’s a good place with solid human beings,” Scelfo says. “There’s an honesty that’s clean and simple, and that’s the approach I take to my food.”