Monday, December 13, 2010

Dinner with a Chef - Armand Toutaint, Turner Fisheries

"One fish, two fish, three fish, blue fish..."

Chef Armand Toutaint is prime example of where hard work and tenacity can lead to great success. This New Hampshire born and raised chef started his career as mere dishwasher, but fought to rise through the restaurant ranks to eventually land at Boston's Turner Fisheries, where he has served as the chef de cuisine for the past two years. As I chatted with Toutaint over dinner the other night, I noticed that Armand is a man of few words; clearly what he lacks in sentences is made up for in his dishes.

Q: Hello Chef, why don't you start by telling me a bit about yourself and how you end up in the restaurant industry? Did you perhaps grow up cooking with a food loving family?

Armand Toutaint: Hi Finance Foodie. Well I didn't really grow up with a family of cooks, in fact, I was a bit of a hellion as a child. A friend of my mother's owned a small coffee shop and bakery in Laconia [New Hampshire] and needed a dishwasher on the weekend. It was a way to keep me out of trouble so I started doing that when I was 10 and here I am now.

Q: So are you self-taught then?

AT: Yes, never went to culinary school. Learned a lot from the people I've worked with over the years.

Q: So what prompted the move to Boston?

AT: I love NH, and don't want to say anything bad about it, but you really can't make any money up there. The work is very seasonal - you're busy in the summer and then in the winter is dead. But I still visit NH often, it's only a two hour drive and most of my family is back there.

Q: Why don't you talk a bit about what we are having tonight.

AT: Sure, for our appetizer we have grilled island creek oysters on a bed of coarse sea salt. The oyster are topped with mitake mushrooms and the riesling cream sauce is served on the side.
[Ed Note: Although I thought the oyster were slightly salty, I really enjoyed the nice hearty bite from the mitake mushrooms. Note, the riesling cream sauce is usually served on top the oysters, but I requested it to be put on the side.]

For the entree, which one of my favorite new menu items, we have a seared ahi tuna, cooked medium rare, crusted with orange sesame seeds. This is served on a bed of edamame and corn, and the dish is glazed with a ponzu sauce. Just a reminder that we only use sustainable seafood from eco-friendly sources.
[Ed Note: I adored the tuna, for it tasted like it was fresh from the pond. The ponzu sauce gave the dish a nice citrus-y sweetness that was refreshing, not cloying. The edamame and corn salad was a bit disappointing, I liked the edamame, but felt the what looked like canned corn slightly cheapened the $34 dish]

Q: Tell me more about Turner's commitment to sustainable seafood.

AT: Well when we first started using sustainable local seafood, it was a way to differentiate ourselves from the other seafood places in Boston. I didn't know too much about it at first, but when I started researching it, I found it to be very important that we support sustainable fishing practices that avoid over-fishing and environmentally destructive methods. Our main supplier is Louie Seafood outside Gloucester, MA.

Q: What is an ingredient that you cannot live (or cook) without?

AT: Butter. It's a staple but that's the one people forget about the most often, oddly enough

Q: Favorite thing about Boston? Doesn't have to be food related - you can say the Red Sox!

AT: Well, I'm not really a huge sports fan, but I would say that I like Boston because it has a small town feel but a big city feel at the same time.

Q:So if you don't follow the Red Sox, what do you do in your freetime?

AT: During the summer, I like to motorcycle and golf. Growing up in Laconia, we had a huge motorcycle rally each year so I pretty much grew up on a motorcycle. During the winter, I like to ski, snowboard, and ice fish.

Q: Are you in a motorcycle...gang? group? whatever you call the packs that ride around together?

AT:No (chuckles)

Q: Cool. Thanks so much for your time chef!

Turner Fisheries
10 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 424-7425


Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Our office holiday party was at Turner Fisheries last week and everyone absolutely loved the food! The chef seems awesome, and I can't wait to go back for another great meal.

Anonymous said...

just a clarification the corn on the tuna dish is freash grilled corn and we make a corn stock for the succotash I may have to retool the recipe if the finance foodie thinks it tastes caned

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