On November 1, Kendall Square stalwart The Blue Room welcomed a change of guard in the kitchen— longtime chef Jorge Lopes departed in order to spend more time with his family, and in his place came Robert Grant, a veteran of Bouchon in Las Vegas and The Butcher Shop in the South End. Now that he’s been in the kitchen for a solid month, his first new menu for the restaurant drops this evening. I chatted with Grant earlier this week to find out his plans for The Blue Room and its sibling gourmet food and wine shop Central Bottle. Read on for a Q&A with Grant, and a peek at his debut menu.
So how did you end up with the gig?
My girlfriend and I left Boston in the early summer late spring this year to go traveling, and when we got back we were staying in Colorado figuring out what we were going to do next. And a job opportunity opened up for her out here in Cambridge at Central Bottle, and it was pretty much her dream job, so we came back out here. I found the opportunity to cook at Salts, and we moved out. [Two weeks later] I was approached by the owners of Central Bottle, who also own The Blue Room—Liz Vilardi and Nick Zappia. This definitely seems like a really good fit for me, it’s exactly what I want to be doing, and it’s a huge restaurant and a huge challenge for me.
What are some of the changes you are looking to make now that you are in charge?
I think the main thing that I want to do is kind of capture the spirit and characteristics of the owners. Nick and Liz are very cool and have so much love for Italian food, cooking, traveling, and wine. The other side of that is that I want it to be a much better reflection of the wine list. The current menu just isn’t doing the wine list any justice at all. It’s not a huge list, but there’s some very special wines on there. It reads really well, and has everything you could possibly want, and I just want to create a better relationship between that and the food menu.
Any dishes on the new menu that you are particularly jazzed about?
I am really excited to be working with the grass-fed beef that we’ve been working with for a while, but what we’ve been doing is our own in-house dry-aging. They are so beautiful, and the fact that we have our own wood-fired grill to cook them on is the icing on the cake. I am really excited to get some pork on the menu, where there was none. And sausage and charcuterie. And some really fun, creative vegetarian dishes, because I know that is a huge thing for the restaurant.
Since TBR is so affiliated with Central Bottle, will you be doing anything with them?
So much. The cool part is that my girlfriend is the head cheese monger there, so we are already collaborating a ton on the “one perfect cheese” on the menu here. We were talking about confitures [preserves or jams] that we are going to make here at the restaurant for the cheeses, kind of tailored specifically to the specific cheeses and their flavor profiles. Hopefully most if not all of the confitures we make here we hope to try and jar and sell at Central Bottle. And I am working with the chef at Central Bottle, who does a lot of prep work here at the restaurant. We are working on a lot of charcuterie projects, and sausages, and all sorts of stuff. There’s going to be a ton more overlap between what we’re doing here and what’s available at Central Bottle.
So you’ve worked for a national favorite, Thomas Keller (at Bouchon), and a local favorite, Barbara Lynch (at Butcher Shop). What’s been the biggest takeaway?
One of the things Thomas said that stuck with me was, “love what you do, and if you don’t then there is something wrong.” As far as Barbara goes, I think that some of the bigger lessons I learned from her were more hospitality-driven. I learned so much more about what it takes to make sure that guests are happy.
Robert Grant’s New Menu:
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