The Kitchen Spy: Big Night Entertainment Group’s Kevin Long
The chef and co-owner of glitzy restaurants like Red Lantern, Gem, and Empire shows us around his low-key environs.
All photos by Fawn Deviney for Boston magazine.
While chef Kevin Long mans the kitchens at Big Night Entertainment’s extravagant downtown spots like Empire, Red Lantern, and Gem, he opts for a lower-key lifestyle off-the-clock in his hometown of Rockland on the South Shore. “I have pretty much lived there my whole life,” says Long, who shares his house with his wife, Jessica. He’s updated the appliances and added a couple of new coats of paint, but admittedly isn’t a kitchen obsessive. “It’s not a centerpiece of our house,” Long says. “We make grilled cheese, and my wife makes salads and stuff, but we don’t really eat at home.” Despite his modesty, the chef still boasts a collection of sentimental gadgetry and ingredients that would still put most home kitchen inventories to shame.
Left: “That was a high school graduation present from my aunt,” Long says. “I was cooking then, but I was still in a school for computers, so I didn’t think I would end up cooking 20 years later but here I am.” Right: “My parents and a bunch of my relatives have second homes in way northeastern Vermont. This was a local mom and pop artisan we found. He cuts down all these trees and makes gorgeous pieces out of them, mostly bowls and platters. He does the rough work, and then they sit there [to age] for 2-3 years depending on the type of wood. It was a really fascinating labor of love.”
“That’s some funky salt that Jessica’s dad dried,” Long says. ”Her dad lives down in Harwich, and he set up this contraption for harvesting seawater and drying it. It’s interesting because it’s big chunks, so it’s completely unprocessed and salty. It’s like the kind of salt you’d have to put in a pepper mill and grind it out. We crush it with pepper and find little uses for it everywhere.”
Butter in a can? Yes, this really exists. “My mother gave that to me. [My wife and I] cooked for Thanksgiving, and it was just the two of us. We ended up throwing together a turkey dinner, and we were just starting to cook and realized that we had no butter. Try making stuffing without butter—it’s a violation,” Long says. Luckily, this can was sitting in the pantry. “It’s very European-style butter, very rich. It’s made in New Zealand, and has a really long shelf life. It’s big for camping and survival. It’s actually very good.”
Long’s favorite seasonal ingredient? That would be Nantucket Bay scallops, which are at the tail-end of their short season. “They are very expensive, super sweet, and super delicious,” Long says. “They have a cool story, because there’s a lot of people in the restaurant business [in Nantucket] who through the summer are in the restaurants cooking, and then spend the rest of the season harvesting scallops.
A French spice rack is loaded with a variety of quirky sauces and syrups, most of which were gifts over the years from friends. Long’s favorite is the bottle of vanilla, third from right. “There’s some Mayan vanilla which is the hokiest thing in the world. It’s this total tourist trap-looking bottle, but it’s the greatest vanilla,” he says. A head-scratcher is the Steen’s cane syrup, which he purchased in New Orleans. “That’s a molasses-like sugar cane syrup that’s used down south. I’ve tried to use it but I haven’t figured it out. It’s got this really intense molasses-sugar thing going on,” he says.
Above, a bottle of apple-balsamic vinegar purchased from Virgin & Aged in Newport, RI. “It’s a beautiful place there. They have these big vats, almost like a tin vat you’d see in a farmhouse, and it has all the product in it and they have tasting cups. It’s the most unbelievable high quality stuff—I bought a bunch of it for the restaurants. For the Asian restaurants, we do really pure pressed sesame oil,” Long says.
Obligatory fridge-peeping time! Staples like almond milk, Greek yogurt, Texas Pete hot sauce, and baby carrots abound, but then there’s also more gourmand touches in the form of kewpie mayo (“That stuff is godly. It’s so high in naturally-occurring MSG, it’s brilliant.”), white Burgundy (“I took [that] home from the restaurant to be cool. If I could drink white Burgundies everyday, I would”), Fever Tree tonic water, and a chilled bottle of Veuve.
Left: A framed photo of when Long met Julia Child in the late 90s. “We were doing an event at BU, and Julia was really great. We did this mushroom dish that I have done for years and years after, and I was just creating it at the time. She came over, and was very gracious and tried the mushrooms, and was very sweet. Jaques Pepin was there with her. He totally chastised me because the mushrooms I had were way overgrown, and he said, ‘How could you pick those?’” Long remembers. Right: Long’s treasured copy of The French Chef. “My wife bought it for me as a Christmas present. It’s one of the first editions,” he says. “Everyone has their ‘I cooked for Julia Child’ story. I cooked for her once, at Aquitaine, and she liked everything but said her pork chops were a little overcooked.”
Top left, bottom left-right: Long keeps a binder of memorable articles and event menus that he was a part of in the past. Top right: A prime example? This signed menu, from when he cooked alongside Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se at the James Beard House.
Top: A selection of some of Long’s go-to cookbooks. Bottom left-right: “This is my favorite book,” Long says of Love, Time & Butter. ”It’s a crazy book, I think it was published in 1971. It’s all classic recipes, French stuff of that era before modern cooking. There’s a really New England local twist with stuff like bay scallop and local flounder recipes and oyster recipes, all based on local stuff. There’s stuff in there like Mornay sauce, and Newburg sauce. All of the stuff I get fixated on.”
Left: A sketch from Long’s other favorite book, The Mirabelle Cookbook. “Chef Marco Pierre White was one of the most famous British chefs before Gordon Ramsay. Mirabelle is a place in London that has been there for 300 years. It had run its course, and was going to close, and White was this bad boy chef that broke all the rules,” Long says. “He took over this place, and reinvented it to its old grandeur.” Right: That sketch looks familiar, right? “That crazy wall painting is from one of my old cooks from Tosca,” Long says. “He melted down an Asiago rind and reproduced this sketch for me.”
Although Long admits to not cooking at home all that often, he and his wife still treasure their collection of antique glassware and serving pieces. “Some of that is glassware was Jessica’s grandparents’. The little old school champagne flutes, those are actually beveled glass that we bought at an antique shop in Vermont,” Long says. Most of the silver serving pieces have also been passed down through Jessica’s family. ”We are going to have a big dinner and plan it around the actual serving utensils. That’s all a part of dining that’s dying. I don’t know when I’ll do it, but I really love it. There’s certain serviceware just for serving olives. It’s my hint of nostalgia.”
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