Chef Tony Maws, who first rose to fame in 2002 with Boston-favorite Craigie Street Bistrot, is quickly becoming the Meryl Streep of the culinary world. In addition to starring alongside such acting greats as Steve Martin and Dustin Hoffman (not true), Maws has won more awards than we can probably count (true). Named Boston’s ‘Best Chef’ in 2010, 2008, 2006, and 2003 by Boston magazine as well as Food and Wine magazine’s ‘Best New Chef’ in 2005, the James Beard ‘Best New Chef’ recipient is busy these days serving up what he likes to call “refined rusticity” at The Kirkland Tap & Trotter and Craigie on Main (which he opened in 2008 when he outgrew Craigie Street Bistrot). Delivering some of the best locally harvested produce and seafood around to diners with awesome Boston accents, Maws is a true culinary megastar.
The chef got ready for his closeup and agreed to answer our nine essential questions, below. He said he’ll thank the Academy later.
1. What’s an underrated food city and why?
Albuquerque, New Mexico has some terrific, not fancy and delicious food ranging from green chile to a bowl of Pho. Portsmouth, NH is growing restaurants and breweries left and right. And a “big market” city I think gets overlooked often is Philadelphia. Besides the big names (Vetri et al.) the BYOB laws make it so that young chefs can open small, hole-in-the-wall places in tucked away neighborhoods.
2. What food/food trend are you tired of?
Cupcakes. Overuse of wild trees and plants, especially ones that don’t even taste good but they want something “foraged.” Saying, “farm to table.” “Secret” Burgers.
3. How do you feel about Yelp?
At this point, I’m pretty over it. I’ll continue to hope that people don’t use anonymity to write disparaging remarks, but I’m also understanding that it’s not going away. Honestly, I’ve got more important things to worry about, and if I do my job well enough then we don’t have to think too much about it.
4. If your kitchen is burning down, what’s the one gadget you save?
My Nenox Knives, and my meat grinder.
5. Your guilty pleasure food?
Chinese dumplings. Even when I’m full I’ll still eat them all. A hot sausage at Fenway Park (though I don’t feel guilty at all about it). And a bag of Fritos when I’m driving to New York.
6. If you could cook for one person—who would it be?
I’d cook for my grandmother and grandfather (I know that’s two but that’s who I dream of cooking for). It could be anything, but I’d love for them to see what I’ve been up to and then have a glass of Scotch after dinner and just talk.
7. What are five ingredients that are always in your pantry?
Kosher salt, good olive oil, lemons, garlic and onions. Give me those ingredients and I’ll make something taste good.
8. What’s the one mistake most amateur chefs make?
They try to cook directly out of fancy chefs cookbooks. Start with the basics, make something simple, and learn to make it delicious.
9. What’s the best advice you ever received?
Learning to cook takes time. There is no way to expedite the process of learning this craft; so work hard, put you head down, and be patient… really patient.