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William Kovel, People’s Best New Chef Nominee

Photo: William Kovel/Official Site

Three local chefs, Robert Sisca, Joseph Margate and William Kovel, have been nominated for Food & Wine's second annual People’s Best New Chef award. Eater spoke to all three about how it feels. Up next, William Kovel of Catalyst in Kendall Square.

Sow does it feel? It's a real kind of humbling experience to be nominated with the rest of the chefs. It's really exciting, it's great that there's not only chefs nominated from Boston but also some smaller markets like Providence. I was looking at some of the nominees and their restaurants' websites and they look phenomenal. One that looks like great is Hallowell's place. It's great publicity for food and cooking in the Northeast. Anytime you get a national publication like Food & Wine to highlight regions and up-and -coming chefs it's fantastic, it's a win for everybody.

Where you surprised? Yeah, I think I got jitters and butterflies. Food & Wine is one of those magazines that I was reading in high school and thinking about becoming a chef. As a young cook out in San Francisco, every year they'd have the Best New Chef, and we'd always follow it.

Have you been tracking the votes? I look every day. It's really exciting to be a part of it and there's a camaraderie with our community here in Boston and the Northeast. We have two services a day and I'm kind of in the kitchen, so I'm not, like, glued to it.

What do you think caught F&W's attention? Catalyst is a unique restaurant for this area because of the design and the scope. The scope of the project, lots of hard wood, private event space, big patio, it's a very large restaurant in the size and the footprint of the place, but it's also what we're serving. We're pretty much a scratch kitchen, we make everything in-house every day and we try to go with as sustainable as possible, but for more of a mainstream audience. People are really receptive to it here in Cambridge and we've gotten a lot of really great feedback.

What's your signature dish? We have a couple of dishes that are really popular and that it would be hard to remove from the menu. The tournedos of beef with the Taleggio ravioli, Swiss chard, garlic-parsley puree and Bordelaise sauce is one of the signature dishes that we've been doing since we opened, and the blue cod with crushed potatoes and the chowder nage: it's like eating the sea. Or the burger, that's the casual person's meal at the bar, and our butterscotch pudding with the fried pound cake croutons and pecans and whipped cream: it's addictive.

So what would you do if you won? I don't know! I'm happy just being nominated. I'm kind of a shy guy. My wife always tells me I have to get out in front more but I love being in the kitchen and I love serving people. It would definitely be great exposure for the restaurant and for Boston and the Cambridge area. Every one of the nominees has a valid reason why they should win and they're all phenomenal chefs. My chef du cuisine just ate at Bistro du Midi and had an awesome meal last week: he's doing great things over there. For me it's a learning experience. I learn about restaurants I haven't heard of, or new guys coming up on the scene. It's great.

For more information or to vote for a nominee, see here: http://www.foodandwine.com/peoples-best-new-chef/new-england

· All coverage of People's Best New Chef 2012 [-EB-]

Catalyst Restaurant

300 Technology Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 617-576-3000

Catalyst

300 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA

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