Watch Now: Star Chef Tiffani Faison Joins Boston Magazine’s “Power Talks”

In the latest installment of our virtual event series, the influential restaurateur discusses the devastating impact of COVID-19, teases a new project, and more.

Chef and restaurateur Tiffani Faison. / Photo by Mike Diskin

This week marked the beginning of the Phase Two reopening process in Massachusetts, which means restaurants across the Commonwealth are (finally!) setting out the silverware once again—outdoors, anyway. Although dining rooms won’t be back in action until the second part of Phase Two (are you keeping up?), patio service is slowly rolling out as establishments figure out how to implement new measures: socially distanced tables, touch-less payment options, digital menus, and the like.

So it seemed like a good time to check in with one of Boston’s most well-known and celebrated chef-owners, Tiffani Faison of Big Heart Hospitality. The James Beard Award-nominated toque and Chopped judge, whose fascinating journey to food-world fame we previously profiled here, is behind the popular Fenway-side restaurants Sweet Cheeks Q, Tiger Mama, Fool’s Errand, and Orfano (which received a rave review here only a month before the pandemic shuttered everything).

But in this week’s conversation for “Power Talks,” Boston magazine’s virtual event series with influential players featured in our Power 100 list, Faison shared with me her thoughts, concerns, and hopes for the industry on the whole. We spoke about the devastation that the shutdown is wreaking on independent operators, even while major chains manage to skirt by for now. She shared ideas on how Boston could help small eateries sustain themselves in the short term. (Two words: Takeout cocktails.) And she offered up some of the safety steps and other changes, such as Orfano’s upcoming pivot to red-sauce Italian comfort food, that her restaurants will take as their outdoor seating spaces reopen in the days ahead.

Faison is always candid, but she also got particularly personal in our chat, divulging that she’s been dealing with all these professional challenges amid a divorce from her longtime spouse and business partner, Kelly Walsh. We already knew she had two fast-casual concepts coming to High Street Place, a food hall slated to open in the Financial District, but she shared with us the scoop that a third, surprise venture is also going to land there. And as a pretty passionate voice for social justice, she spoke of how important it is that the industry use this moment to break down old frameworks and rebuild more equitable ones, as well as the need for diners to put their dollars toward chefs who stand for systemic change—not bias and abuse.

Check out this latest edition of “Power Talks” below, and head here for updates on upcoming installments.