By: Finance Foodie
For this installment of my Dinner with a Chef series, I chatted with William Kovel, chef de cuisine of the AAA Five-Diamond Award-winning Aujourd’hui in the Four Seasons Hotel. I had previously met Chef Kovel at the Tour de Champagne event, where he won me over with his innovative and tasty hiramasa wonton offering. Therefore, I was delighted to have dinner with this culinary talent who has already accomplished so much at such a young age.
Finance Foodie: I heard you just got back from a trip to Iceland. Welcome back! What were you doing there?
William Kovel: I was there as the Boston representative for Reykjavik’s week long Food & Fun festival. I was a guest judge for their culinary showdown, where 16 chefs from Europe and the US battle it out Iron Chef style. It was an exciting event – I even met a few people there who had been to Aujourd’hui!
FF: As I am the Finance Foodie and care about having enough Finances to eat Food, given the current economic situation, what initiatives have you implemented at Aujourd’hui to encourage patrons to continue dining out?
WK: I think that there is that perception of the Four Seasons as the most expensive [restaurant], but realistically, we are right there with all the other upscale, service-driven restaurants in Boston. We do offer a $40 three-course tasting menu that changes every two weeks, which I think hands down is the best deal in Boston! We also have a three-course wine pairing dinner with our Sommelier Jason Irving for $55, and he offers big pours [of wine]. These items target the more budget conscious demographic that still seek high quality food and the exceptional service that we are known for.
FF: And what about that Bubbly Bar you have in the front of your restaurant? I hear you throw a pretty happening party on Friday nights?
WK: It’s one of our most successful new initiatives. We have champagne and sparkling wine for $10 a glass, and I send out complementary canapés as a way to say Happy Friday. Over 90% of the guests are younger women - it’s like a girls’ Happy Hour [Ed Note: single guys, are you taking notes?]
FF: Tell me about the dishes we are having tonight
WK: First we have capalachi (inverted tortellini) filled with escargot, leeks, and a little bit of potato. This is served with a garlic beurre, tomato, and hedgehog mushrooms.
[Ed Note: this was absolutely delicious as the flavors are rich without being too heavy. I also think this was a creative way to present escargot, as it is usually is served soaking in garlic butter sauce.]
This is a roasted rack of lamb served on top a bed of pea greens and black olives. It is accompanied by potato gnocchi drizzled with parsley-garlic puree.
[Ed Note: the potato gnocchi was firm and creatively shaped into a rectangle – very flavorful even without the sauce. The lamb had a nice consistency, was generously portioned, and did not taste gamey at all]
FF: What are your goals as a chef?
WK: In my career, I not only want to cook amazing food, but also to teach and serve as a mentor to other young chefs. I have seen chefs come through my kitchen go on and do other great things and make headlines of their own – and that is just extremely satisfying to read.
FF: Have you cooked for anyone famous at Aujourd'hui?
WK: [Governor] Deval Patrick has been in a few times, he likes the oysters. John Kerry has been in before with his family and sat at Table 26. But they are just regular people. When you come to Aujourd'hui, you’re a guest and we treat everyone like a celebrity. We shower just as much attention on the 18-year-old couple on their prom date as we do on the billionaire at the table next to them.
FF: Anything else you want to add?
WK: Our food is clean, well thought out and presented, modern but very technique driven. It’s not intimidating or overcomplicated – its straight up good!
So there you have it, dishes made with simple ingredients that are creatively concocted and cooked to perfection. A wonderful dinner with a wonderful chef at a wonderful restaurant – a win- win-win evening!