Chef Swaps: 10 New Reasons to Revisit These Boston Restaurants

These toques are putting their own stamp on favorite spots
January 8, 2018
by Scott Kearnan

As excited as we are to hit all of the hot new restaurants in Boston, sometimes it's nice to revisit old favorites — especially when a new chef joins the kitchen and introduces plates that convey his or her own unique identity. We last looked at significant chef swaps in March 2017; here are some of the higher-profile movements that have happened since then. 

Courtesy of Sasha Israel Photography/Fat Hen

Chris Parsons at Fat Hen
If you still haven't checked out Somerville's Fat Hen, the intimate Italian-inspired eatery that inhabits the former market space of neighbor-sibling La Brasa, there's no time like the present. Last summer saw the arrival of Chris Parsons, the chef who built a super-strong reputation on the success of his ambitious approach at suburban spots like Winchester's late Parsons Table and Milton's still-humming Steel & Rye. We know that Parsons has also been working with restaurateur Brian Lesser (partner in hot spots like The Smoke Shop BBQ) on a new concept in a TBA Boston hotel, though, so check out his work at Hen before that plan is hatched.

126 Broadway, Somerville; 617-764-1612

Courtesy of The Salty Pig

Michael Bergin at The Salty Pig
So, what happened to former Fat Hen chef Michael Bergin? In June he landed at The Salty Pig in the South End. (Coincidentally, his wife, Carrie Bergin, is event coordinator at Salty's sister restaurant, SRV.) Bergin, previously sous chef at Back Bay fine-dining icon L'Espalier and NYC's acclaimed Del Posto, has further developed the restaurant's pasta program by tapping into that earlier experience — and the personal passion sparked by spending childhood summers with his Sicilian grandfather, owner of a local produce company. 

130 Dartmouth St.; 617-536-6200

Courtesy of Danh Nguyen/Shojo

Mike Stark at Shojo, BLR by Shojo and Ruckus
We were bummed when Mark O'Leary, alum of O Ya and co-founder of the cult fave pop-up Guchi's Midnight Ramen, moved on from the Shojo group of restaurants, where he'd made a major impact on the kitchens and culture. But there was a bright side: his role was inherited by Stark, talented alum of Toro, Coppa and Tiger Mama. Besides introducing new items to Shojo (like mushroom mazemen with soy braised shiitake and crispy garlic) and BLR (like scallion pancakes with roasted bone marrow), Stark opened Ruckus, the team's latest venture and one of the hottest (and hippest) fast-casual newcomers to Boston. 

Courtesy of ArtScience

Carolina Curtin at ArtScience
​It's all about innovation at this Kendall Square–side restaurant, an extension of the work of founder David Edwards, the Harvard engineer also behind Le Laboratoire, an international outfit exploring the intersections of food, art and science. So naturally, sometimes you have to shake up the team to yield some new epicurean experiments. Over the summer, ArtScience (which dropped the "Cafe" from its name) brought in as bar director acclaimed mixologist Tenzin Samdo, a Trade vet whose praises we've sung before. And though former 30 Under 30 honoree Giselle Miller remained pastry chef, the chef de cuisine role now belongs to Carolina Curtin. Curtin, previously of haley.henry and Menton, seems to bring a bit more eclectic flair to the French-based culinary: think menu items like hamachi ceviche with pear soda and huckleberry, or fried Brussels sprouts with kimchi and pickled mustard seeds.

650 E. Kendall St., Cambridge; 857-999-2193

Courtesy of Sonsie

Jason Hanelt at Sonsie
​Talk about pressure. In November, Hanelt became the first new executive chef at Sonsie in over 20 years, taking over for the spot's longtime toque Bill Poirier. And the chef, previously senior sous at the late, great Hamersley's Bistro, completely revamped the menu at his new home, one of the longest-running and most popular anchor restaurants on busy Newbury Street. Smoked salmon terrine, Malaysian shrimp with pork jerky and bone marrow with mushrooms and plum mostarda are all among the new offerings at this old favorite. 

327 Newbury St.; 617-351-2500

Courtesy of Catalyst

Justin Urso at Catalyst
Sometimes a chef-owner needs to take a step back to manage the bigger picture — and trust in fresh talent to get the day-to-day details right. Such is the case at Catalyst, where in September Justin Urso took on the chef de cuisine role. He's developing and executing the menus for chef-owner William Kovel, who is now splitting his time between overseeing the restaurant and its newer distinct, bustling sibling, Catalyst Cafe. Urso, previously of polished, sophisticated spots like Picholine, Del Posto, The Chatham Bars Inn and Deuxave, has developed new dishes like octopus a la plancha with 'nduja and turnip and sunchoke veloute with shaved apple.

300 Technology Sq., Cambridge; 617-576-3000

Courtesy of Artisan Bistro

Micole Rivera Suarez at Artisan Bistro and Avery Bar
The Ritz-Carlton brand tends to be associated with the traditional forms of high-end hospitality, but the Boston property's recent, modernizing $13 million redesign seems part of an effort to shake up its rep. Perhaps too was the appointment of Suarez as the first chef de cuisine at its Artisan Bistro and Avery Bar, where she previously managed in-room dining after moving to the Hub from the Ritz's Puerto Rico property. Now she's adding some Argentinean and Caribbean inspiration to the bistro's rustic-cool cuisine, plus some wild game dishes. Housemade pork sausage cassoulet with fried duck leg are among her new offerings.

10 Avery St.; 617-574-7176

Courtesy of Beat Brasserie

James Lyons at Beat Brasserie and The Beehive
Chicago's loss is our gain. Last summer Lyons moved from the Windy City to Cambridge, where he took the helm as the new executive chef at Beat Brasserie, Harvard Square's hip globally inspired restaurant-cum–live music hangout. Lyons roared straight out of the gate, introducing an eclectic menu honed from years at acclaimed eateries like The Publican and avec: think steamed mussels with gigante beans and garlic bread, charred octopus with chantrelle mushrooms, broccolini and black garlic aïoli, and paella with confit chicken thigh legs, chorizo verde and shrimp. He's since taken the helm at sibling restaurant The Beehive too, building even more buzz at that beloved South End hive. 

Courtesy of The Rising

Brian Krieger at The Rising
What happens when an Irish gastropub inherits a new chef with a fine-dining background? Prepare to find out, because The Rising in Cambridge has just welcomed Krieger to its team. The former sous-chef at Craigie on Main has also managed the kitchens for multiple restaurants in Beard Award winning chef-restaurateur Barbara Lynch's portfolio — so we're excited to see how Krieger combines comfort food tastes with elevated technique. On the agenda this season, he promises braised veal breast with creamy semolina and roasted carrots and a stacked carnitas sandwich, a spin on the tortas he grew up eating in Southern California.

1172 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 617-714-4130

Courtesy of Café Med

Marina Voutsa at Café Med
Among all the Greek cuisine–focused restaurants that have arrived in Boston over the last couple years, Kava Neo-Taverna in the South End has stood out as one of the best, a quietly excellent neighborhood eatery driven more by word-of-mouth than marketing. So we were excited to learn last month that Voutsa, a veteran of the Kava team, has brought her form of Hellenic-inspired hospitality over to Back Bay's Café Med. A native of Thessaloniki, where she first learned to cook family recipes alongside her father, Voutsa has imported her Kava-born baklava to Café Med and introduced new dishes like pastitsio (a lasagnalike Greek dish of baked pasta, beef and Bechamel sauce), moussaka with eggplant, potatoes, and béchamel sauce, and soutzoukakia-style meatballs. 

31 St James Ave.; 857-317-2737

chef swaps