« February 2011 Table of Contents
Networking: Matthew Gaudet
Chef de cuisine Aquitaine Boston
By James Wright
February 05, 2011
"No offense to those on the West Coast, but I don't want my fish to travel from Alaska to serve here in Boston, because there's fish here."
After a decade in some of New York’s best kitchens — Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park, Aquavit and Tocqueville — Matthew Gaudet is back in his hometown of Boston (he’s from nearby Sudbury, actually), helming South End institution Aquitaine Bar a Vin Bistrot. Like many chefs, most of his stops lasted for one year or so, but he seems to have found a comfortable spot with the Aquitaine Group, which boasts three Aquitaine restaurants (Boston, Chestnut Hill and Dedham), the Gaslight Brasserie, Metropolis Café and Union Bar and Grille.
Gaudet says Aquitaine is re-imagining French gastronomy with a distinct American accent. Regulars can’t get enough of his Lemon Sole Meuniére, he adds. Folks coming to town for the International Boston Seafood Show next month might want to try Aquitaine. WRIGHT: Glad to be home in Boston? GAUDET: I enjoyed my journeys in my 20s and 30s but after a while you feel like home is where you’re most comfortable. I have my own niche here. The Boston dining scene is exploding, born out of Jasper’s, Lydia Shire and Todd English, and now there are a lot of independent people coming out of those ranks. Contemporary American cuisine is all the rage now, and that spirit’s in this town. Describe Aquitaine to someone who’s never visited.
Our restaurants have a French base — the bistro, the hustle and bustle. Each has an independent flavor, but a common theme. We push in new directions with traditional New England ingredients. It’s a place that will take you to 1930s Paris, not Dedham. What was the job that convinced you this was a career?
When I was in Colorado, at the Grouse Mountain Grill [near Vail]. It was the first time I saw chefs cooking food that wasn’t just for eating, if you know what I mean. There was a delicacy to it. I decided then that there’s a lot more to this cooking thing than just putting food on a plate. There were people who thought that, with the right training, I might have a clue as to what’s going on. Your menu varies by season. What’s on it in the middle of winter?
The root cellar, baby. I got squashes, beets, carrots — real hearty stuff that will be available through the winter. Grains; I’m a fan of beans, legumes, quinoa. With fish, I just put cod back on the menu. Arctic char is new. Lemon sole is a signature dish — it’s not going anywhere. [I’m] using a lot of Maine lobster right now. Any unique takes on traditional dishes?
A sun choke clam chowder. I use a sun choke purée and instead of the creamy chowder, I earthen it out with sun chokes and squash. Do guests ask about sustainable seafood?
The greater question we get is more where [the seafood’s] from. Personally, I don’t think fish should travel so far. No offense to those on the West Coast, but I don’t want my fish to travel from Alaska to serve here in Boston, because there’s fish here. What sources do you use for sustainability information?
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is useful. A lot of things have red flags and alternatives. The general population is getting more adventurous, yet sometimes it’s hard to sell an obscure fish. The old guard still exists — for a lot of businesses it’s bottom line and profit. It’s a faceless world. I’m not in that world. In my peer group, we have a consciousness to do the right thing.