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What is it to "BE" a New England chef?


Nick M
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Every continent, country, and cuisine had it's chefs. What defines a New England chef? As a foodie from Central/Western Massachusetts, I have unique experiences and connections to the soil beneath my feet that lie in tradition and the constant flux of cultural and culinary evolution. From salt preserved goods to baked beans and Portuguese fusion, what defines us?

I'd be interested to hear the experiences and memories of old, the opinions of late, and the philosophy of new.

"Egg whites are good for a lot of things; lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, and clogging up radiators."

- MacGyver

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To be from New England (either natively or a resident for a reasonable length of time), and prepare traditional New England dishes in a restaurant setting.

"Egg whites are good for a lot of things; lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, and clogging up radiators."

- MacGyver

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You can go back far to talk about NE traditions -- Thanksgiving, Boston cooking school and all that -- but insofar as the last few decades: I think that there were two kinds of NE chefs pre-80s: staid Yankees continuing the traditions of working class, hard scrabble folks making beans with salt pork and overcooking their cod, and the Boston-brahmin Locke-Ober crowd that channeled Continental cuisines.

Along with others who have made the same point, I'd mark Lydia Shire and Jasper White as the two chefs who combined a local foodways approach with the sorts of high-end, high quality cuisines coming out of California. Both sought to create "New England food," but neither felt that the term required a compromise. I still think that White's first cookbook is the standard against which all NE books should be measured.

As for new trends, I'm not sure that there are any that are particularly NE per se, as most derive from the same sorts of approaches seen elsewhere in the states. That's not to say that there aren't interesting trends around, but most stem from easily recognizable movements (locavore/Slow Food, especially) or from the sorts of immigrant influxes happening across the country (in RI, Portuguese, then SE Asian, then...).

My two cents, anyway.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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