Listen to my conversation about Scampo with Morning Edition host Bob Seay on WGBH 89.7 FM.
BOSTON — Chef Simon Restrepo is a serious guy. My visit with Simon was an education in focus, determination, and precision. Every dish he prepares is executed meticulously. He makes it look easy, but I can tell you from experience that plating the gorgeous mozzarella with king crab, avocado, and homemade salsa appetizer is no easy task. My experiment in putting together a tower of buffalo mozzarella, king crab, avocado, salsa, and watercress with Chef Simon resembled more of a landslide than the well-balanced work of art you witness in the show. I promise to keep practicing!!
I am not surprised that Simon is a perfectionist in the kitchen. It takes a special type of determination and perseverance to start in a restaurant as a dish washer, newly emigrated from Colombia, and work your way up to the position of executive chef in a top-tier restaurant under Lydia Shire's watchful eye. It wasn't an easy path. Simon told me that at one point in his training in Lydia's kitchen, he quit. She was pushing him to a level that was demanding not only of his culinary skills, but of his language skills as well. The day after Simon quit, Lydia went to his house and told him that she believed in him and that he could do it; that he had the talent to become an incredible chef. Simon returned to work and quit again. Lydia returned to his doorstep to again encourage him to come back. According to Simon, this happened three or four times! Lydia obviously recognized that Simon was a rare employee, chef, and person, that Simon does not commit to a job unless he can do his absolute best.
One doesn't think that a visit to Scampo at the Liberty Hotel in historic Beacon Hill will lead to chicharrón, or cracklings, on your spaghetti, but Simon and Lydia have been combining these types of ingredients for years and it is a trend that is occurring nationwide. I suppose it should come as no surprise considering Latinos are working in restaurant kitchens throughout the nation in positions ranging from dishwashers to line cooks to executive chefs.
Watch Neighborhood Kitchens online to find out more about Scampo.
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