by Jesse Cook
When you enter a big city, you pass by those who are departing. They’re cruising by on the opposite side of the highway, checking their bags at the airport, and crossing your path to wait patiently at the train station. As you pass them, you gaze at the downtown buildings and the swirl of activity on the streets. Your arrival in a new place with new opportunities is thrilling. You can’t help but smile. What is this new city? What will you do here? Who will you meet?
DineOut Blog (DOB) has just arrived in Boston and we’re hungry for some city experience. As we set foot on new territory, with curiosity, we turn our heads to those city veterans waiting in the departure line. If you want to know something about a location, talk to those who’ve “been there, done that.” Our gig at DOB is the restaurant scene, so why not approach an experienced chef who has “done Boston,” as he packs his bags for the Great Lakes.
Chef Todd Lesakowski is departing for his hometown, Buffalo, NY, this morning. Here in Boston, Chef Todd has managed endeavors for Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger, applied his talent as Sous Chef at Franklin Café, and for the past year, assisted Chef Christopher Coombs with the opening of Deuxave in the Back Bay. As Todd made his final preparations for the return to Buffalo, I had the privilege of working with him at Dbar in Dorchester. He has been an invaluable resource for the DineOut network. I’ll continue to pester him with questions until the moment he sets foot on the tarmac…
DOB: “Chefs travel a lot. You’re originally from Buffalo. You went to work for Chef Alfred Portale at Gotham Bar & Grill in Manhattan. In 2001, you left New York City for Providence, RI, and then ended up in Boston. Now you’re going back to Buffalo. Have you just completed a decade of strategic travel?
Todd: “I leave cities for no good reason. When I’m done with something, I’m done. I like change…but I do miss Manhattan.”
DOB: “Give us a Ming Tsai story. He seems like such a cool chef.”
Todd: “Ming is one of the most impressive people I have ever met. For all he’s accomplished, he’s just so down to earth. I have some really good stories about him. One night Chef (Ming) and I were in Chicago for an event and stopped at a bar for some dirty martinis. It was the first time he ever had a bleu cheese stuffed olive, which really surprised me…Anyway, that night at the bar, he told this story about when he went to a Michelin starred restaurant in France. He was served a whole roasted black truffle wrapped in puff pastry with duxelles and served with Madeira sauce. F-----g Truffle Wellington! As he tells the story, he wasn’t sure if he was overcome by that dish or the wine, but he got up to go to the men’s room. As he walked down a hallway, he noticed another tall, good looking, Chinese man. So assuming there weren’t too many other tall, good looking, Chinese dudes in France, Ming decided he would say hi. As he extended his hand to the gentleman...he bumped into a mirror. F-----g hilarious! We couldn't stop laughing that night in Chicago. I have so much respect for a chef that does such amazing things, enjoys it, and doesn’t need to take himself too seriously.”
Todd: “I don’t mean to sound biased by choosing restaurants that I worked at, but, Deuxave has quickly established itself as one of the top restaurants in Boston. The Franklin Café is an iconic establishment, and Chef Kelly (Franklin Executive Chef) has taken the food to new heights. It’s just a great place to hang out, drink, eat, and see friends. I f-----g love the Dumpling House in China Town. ‘Toro,’ though sometimes inconsistent, is easily my favorite place in town. There’s a place in the North End called ‘Pomodoro.’ It’s tiny, the food is simple and awesome. The staff just oozes hospitality. I’ve had some very memorable evenings there.”
DOB: “What did you like most about Boston? What will you miss?”
Todd: “I love any city that is defined by its people. I’ve made a lot of great friends here. I’ll also miss the city itself, so much history and culture. What a great town.”
DOB: “What did you not like about Boston? What won’t you miss?”
Todd: “Not to be a dick, but some of the industry people in this town are a bit full of themselves. I mean seriously, we’re not saving the world. We’re just making it a better place to eat.”
DOB: “You’ll take a taste of Boston back with you to Buffalo. What will that be?”
Todd: “I promised some friends I’d bring them cannolis from Mike’s Pastry. Love that dirty water!”
We’re going to miss him.
Welcome to DOB. This blog will be a resource of entertainment and knowledge for DineOut guests. Expect chef interviews conducted by Jesse Cook, hot restaurant scene news from Michael Bellantuoni, and foodie posts from guest bloggers like Michelle Zippelli of JustAddCheese.com.
DOB carries the message of DineOut. It’s about the food, the people seated at the dinner table, the people serving the food, and attention to the community beyond the restaurant doors. Boston is looking so good.
We’ve unpacked. Let’s begin…