Q&A: Five Questions with Temple Bar's New Chef

Formerly of downtown Boston’s Good Life, Michael Scelfo recently took on the role of executive chef at Cambridge favorite Temple Bar.

You’ve done a lot of work in fine dining, and you’ve also had experience in the American bistro style of cooking that Temple Bar is known for. How’s your new job at Temple Bar unique among the other posts you’ve held?

It’s different in the sense that it’s really a very bustling, busy place, so from a volume perspective, I have the opportunity to showcase my food to a much larger crowd. I’ve worked in much smaller places before, and it’s exciting to have this bigger venue.

A couple of years ago, our magazine printed a piece on your predecessor, Tom Berry, and his obsession with crispy French fries. Are you obsessed with crispy frites?

I’m obsessed with putting out really, really high-quality food. I don’t know that there’s any one thing that I’m particularly obsessed with more than any other—just making sure that it’s all high-quality.

Have you had to make any compromises concerning the menu?

The owners so far really let you do your own thing. They know what works and what doesn’t work, so they’re there to guide you—like, “Hey, you know, that kind of dish tends to be more successful than this one.” But never specifically things like “We want potatoes instead of carrots,” or anything even close to that. It’s refreshing because I’ve worked places before where the owners want you to do peanut butter and jelly or whatever it is that they want to do.

What do you think is the most ambitious dish on your Temple Bar menu?

I don’t think that there’s any one super-ambitious dish. I think what’s ambitious about it is putting every one out at the same time, having every plate perfect, every night, whether you’re doing 300 covers or 75. The ambition is to have everyone on the same page and putting out consistent plates.

What do you think will be the most popular dish on your menu?

I always have good luck with my tuna tartar dish; it’s always been super-popular. I really want to be seasonal in my approach to Temple Bar and constantly change things. Because we have so many repeat customers, I want to change the menu regularly, and you won’t see the same dishes eight to 10 weeks down the road. We’ll want to use corn and heirloom tomatoes, and with the farms opening up, we won’t want to miss the fava beans and ramps. I really want to showcase what those guys have. The signature will be that constant change.