Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dinner with Chef Jose Duarte of Taranta Cucina Meridonale [Boston]

By: Finance Foodie

This post marks my first entry to my Dinner with a Chef series, where I chat and dine with the chefs of my favorite restaurants. This month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jose Duarte, chef and owner of the highly popular and award winning Peruvian-Italian restaurant Taranta Cucina Meridonale, located in the historic North End of Boston.

Finance Foodie: Jose, as you have lived and cooked all over the world (Peru, Venezuela, Philadelphia, Florida), what made you decide to open your own restaurant in Boston?

Jose Duarte: I had no doubt I would pursue a career in the food industry. I love food and always had a strong interest in ethnic cuisine, especially food that associated with culture and history. I spent pretty much my whole life in the restaurant and hospitality industry and have traveled the world from it. My wife is from Boston and an opportunity came up for me to start a business here and the rest is history!

FF: How was the transition from working for someone else to running your own place?

JD: I feel it is necessary to work for someone else to learn, but I always found practices that I could improve upon while observing my old bosses. I have owned Taranta for almost 10 years but still feel that the learning process is continuous. Trends change continuously in the [restaurant] business and it is important to be proactive in learning and improving your methodology.
FF: You are very involved with the green initiative and have won several awards for your efforts [Ed Note: Taranta is one of the few Certified green restaurants in the world]. Can you tell me about how you became involved with this cause?

JD: In the beginning we started as a way to minimize electricity and water expenses. But then I started researching more into this issue and realized there was so much more we could do and how much of an environmental impact can be made. Now, the trucks we use run on vegetable oil for gas and have our own bottling system for water which reduces the carbon footprint. We have a blog on our website that talks in detail on our initiatives to educate and spread the word to our customers and the Boston community on the importance of sustainability and environmental conservation. I also speak to local universities and other restaurateurs about Taranta’s green project and how seemingly small changes can have a huge benefit for the world we live in. I am now known as Boston’s “Green Guy” [chuckle chuckle].

FF: What are the top three traits that a good chef / restaurateur should have?

JD: Knowledge and flexibility, but most importantly, passion and enjoyment for what you do.

FF: Best cooking tip?

JD: Use quality ingredients. You cannot build a house without a good foundation.

FF: Favorite kitchen tool?

JD: Knives. Every kitchen should have a set of fine knives.

FF: Tell me about the dishes on the table

JD: Tonight we are having the Pan Roasted Mussels and Lamb Gnocchi, two of the most popular dishes on the menu. The mussels are sautéed in Marsala (Sicily's most famous wine) and tossed with Italian bacon and shallots. The gnocchi is made with Peruvian cassava root and marinated with slow braised "Chicha de Jora" (a traditional South American alcoholic beverage made from fermented dried corn) green lamb ragu and shaved parmesan cheese. Tantara is the only Peruvian-Italian fusion restaurant in the Boston area and maybe in the entire USA.
[Ed Note: Both dishes were delicious – simple in presentation but rich in flavor for the tastebuds. I especially liked the Lamb Gnocchi dish, as the gnocchi pasta was firm and perfectly cooked]
FF: So in addition to your restaurants, you also hold corporate cooking classes and plan culinary adventure treks across South America. How do you manage to do it all?

JD: Keeping up with technological advancement and being organized. I spend a lot of time developing out website and learning about all the ways the Internet can help a business. I even use Facebook to connect with chefs from all around the world! I want to continue to develop and perfect these ventures in addition to running Taranta, as well as other initiatives so stay tuned!

FF: Will do! Thanks for your time Jose!

Taranta Cucina Meridonale
210 Hanover Street
, MA 02113

Taranta on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Great blog! Glad to see you're having an awesome time in Boston and enjoying the other F.

Finance Foodie said...

Thanks Ruth!...sorry which Ruth is this LOL!

coco said...

so cool!

Hayley said...

I love the new design of your site, very clean looking. I'll definately be checking out this restaurant, it sounds fabulous. Thanks for the recommendation!

Sara said...

You don't know me, but I'm freakin' delighted to see a blog about food... with pictures! The lamb gnocchi looks so pretty, too.

Anonymous said...

Your blog looks fantastic! Great profile piece! I look forward to reading more about our local chefs.

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