The Kitchen Spy: Tony Maws

Find out the Craigie on Main toque's must-have ingredients and unique kitchen tools.

Welcome to The Kitchen Spy, where we visit local chefs’ home kitchens, and force them to open up their fridge, drawers, and cabinets.

All photos by Charlotte Wilder/Boston magazine

It would stand to reason that as the chef and owner of Craigie on Main, one of the city’s foremost restaurants, Tony Maws would have a kitchen so stuffed with high-tech gadgetry and obscure ingredients that it would make your head spin. But take one look in the chef’s kitchen, decked out with finger paintings, pint-sized aprons, and picture books, and you’ll realize that he’s got another priority in his home digs: his three-year-old son, Charlie.

That’s not to say that Maws—along with his wife, Karolyn—doesn’t so some serious cooking here. When they moved in to his Cambridge condo, functionality was a priority. “It needed to be open, because both of us knew we were going to be spending time in here, and we couldn’t afford a big glorious kitchen in this time of our lives,” Maws says. “It’s not a place where you can’t open the fridge door all the way. It’s just easy.” Ahead, get the lowdown on the toque’s hot sauce obsession, favorite old-school beer, and go-to late-night snack.

Both at home and at the restaurant, Maws relies on French classic black steel pans. “They retain heat really well, and they are best for searing meat,” he says. “Plus, they season themselves. It’s kind of like cast-iron in that way, so it’s the best omelete pan, the best egg pan in the world. As long as you know how to treat it, it’s the best non-stick there is.”

Clockwise from top left: 1. More pots and pans, which are hung above the counter. 2. A mortar and pestle, which Maws uses to pound garlic and grind herbs. 3. (Right) An old-school apple peeler for apple sauce. “Karolyn is a great, great cook, and she comes from the family that makes all of the old staples really well,” Maws says. “She makes incredible cookies, incredible carrot cake, and incredible applesauce. And she insists on old school equipment like that. She also has a red equipment fetish, which is why all of this stuff is all red.” 4. “Charlie loves making his own lemonade, so we also have a juicer,” Maws says.

Even more vintage tools, which are mostly kept around for fun (rather than everyday use). Red tools, from left: an old-school tomato slicer; a tool for incorporating butter into flour; beaters; a butter/cheese cutter; a whisk. About the beater, Maws says: “When I grew up, at my grandmother’s house it was a big treat to be in her kitchen. I would get to whip the cream, and I used something pretty much as old-school as this.”

Charlie’s colorful drawings and fingerpaintings line the walls. The three-year-old also likes helping out his dad in the kitchen. The apron on the right was a gift from Maws’ brother, who lives in London and picked it up on a trip to Italy. “I have a stool that we bring out; he plants himself [by the counter] and loves it,” Maws says of cooking with Charlie. “When Karolyn is making cookies, he likes to say that he’s the ‘dumper,’ and he knows how to measure out the flour and he will dump it in the bowl. We have a [child-safe] knife that he can cut carrots with. He wants to know when daddy knives are part of his repertoire, but not yet.”

Clockwise from left: 1. The fridge contains a mixture of healthy staples like soy milk and almond butter, and more cheffy ingredients like local miso from South River Miso in Conway and “a shit-ton of cheese and charcuterie,” Maws’ default late-night snack. 2. Lots of staple ingredients from the restaurant show up in the fridge, like buckwheat straccetti pasta, butter, preserved lemons, and guanciale. 3. Charlie’s preferences also have influenced the contents of the fridge. “Sunday is brunch at Craigie on Main, so I always bring leftover pancake batter home [for Charlie],” Maws says. 4.You also may, for example, find out-of-season produce (gasp!). “Sometimes I have to sacrifice some of my ideology because of what a little boy will do, who loves good food and believes in almost everything that I believe in,” Maws says. “But if a yellow pepper needs to be in lunch, then it’s going to be in lunch and that’s just where we are right now.”

From left: 1. Maws is a fan of Three Crabs fish sauce from Viet Huong. 2. Rendered bacon fat is saved, stored in the freezer, and used for cooking. 3. Maws says he always has the following on hand: White soy sauce, sherry vinegar, banyuls vinegar, and Ume plum vinegar for vinaigrettes, as well as olive oil from Arax in Watertown (which also supplies Craigie on Main), and togarashi seasoning.

A hot sauce fiend, Maws also stocks a variety in his fridge. “A lot of people who do what I do, we like things spicy, so I’ve got a whole spicy section here,” Maws says. “[Mazi piri piri] is our favorite sauce these days. It was actually a full page in Saveur six months ago. We got it two years ago—it was at Formaggio and I bought it, and it’s unbelievable.” In addition, there’s always green tobasco sauce, sriracha, sauces from Matouk’s, and a “gazillion” types of mustard.

Clockwise from top left: 1. “People like giving us pigs, so pretty much all of these pigs are gifts. My mother-in-law, anytime she sees anything pig related she buys it for me,” Maws says. 2. Maws used to be a Schlitz guy. “A long time ago, that was all I drank,” he says. 3. A Japanese dish, which was a gift from one of Maws’ sous chefs after a trip to Japan. 4. One of Charlie’s kid-friendly plates (with a Hanukkah twist).

While Maws keeps some cookbooks in his kitchen (and tons at his restaurant), he stores a mix of collectibles and inspirational books in his basement. “I come home after work and I will grab something and start flipping through it again,” he says. On the far right of the bottom shelf is the full, original Time Life Good Cook series by Richard Olney.

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Kitchen Spy, which will be with Jason Bond of Bondir.

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