Patrick Campbell spent nearly a decade at Barbara Lynch's No. 9 Park and is now the executive chef at Garrett Harker's Eastern Standard. The brasserie is a linchpin of Boston's drinking and dining scene and is a symbol of the revitalized Kenmore Square, having served guests for more than eight years on the same spot of land that used to house the near-mythological Rathskeller rock club. Eater spoke with Campbell about his new menu (which can be found after this interview), what led to him joining Eastern Standard, and what it has been like working for both Lynch and Harker — two of the legends of Boston dining.
You spent eight years at No. 9 Park before coming to Eastern Standard. That's a long time these days. It must have been formative for you.
It's hard to put into words. I kind of grew up there. I was so young when I started. I thought I knew how to cook, but there, my whole world changed. I was with that restaurant through so many changes and watched the Gruppo evolve and grow. It gave me a base for who I am as a cook and a person today. It was an amazing experience. Barbara is a great person to work for and I got to work for some of the most talented and kind people in the city. I can't say enough about how good of an experience it was for me.
Your press bio says you came to Eastern Standard "craving a shift from fine dining to casual." What does that mean?
After so long performing at the level we were at No. 9 and forcing vegetables into shapes — don't get me wrong, I'm realistic about what we did at No. 9, I know it was a very casual kind of fine dining. But the food was taken oh so seriously and we really pushed ourselves. Not that I'm not doing that anymore, but it's nice to take a breath of fresh air and just have things be a little more relaxed on the plate — to not be so worried about having perfect dice or cutting things out with ring molds. Brasserie food is something that I connect with. I think everyone does at some level whether they know it or not. There's something comforting about it. So I was excited for that kind of change of pace with the food; being able to have a sausage plate or a really excellent roasted chicken is something that is really exciting to me after what I was doing.
How much experience have you had as an Eastern Standard customer?
A lot. The whole industry comes down here to relax, have a cocktail, and eat. I had my bachelor party here shortly after they opened. My wife threw my 30th birthday party here. That's how I got to know Andrew Holden and the folks over here — just by being a guest. Andrew's an amazing guy to work with. Part of my motivation coming over here was watching him on the floor and seeing him interact with people. It's good to work with someone who wants the same things you do in the restaurant.
There are some items on the menu that have been here since Jamie Bissonnette's days opening the place — like the rigatoni. How are you able to come in and make a menu like that your own?
Well ... those dishes are nice, don't get me wrong. They're delicious. We are actually planning on moving the lamb rigatoni from one of our most popular entrees down to a side item. It'll still be available for folks who have come to love it, but we're trying to make some more space on the menu to get another fish on there and mix it up a little bit. It's a classic here for a reason. I have nothing but respect for Jamie and his food, but I don't necessarily want to be the one serving it. So I'm trying to get away from that as much as possible as we can without losing the identity of the restaurant. I'm trying to put kind of a new identity on it so people can notice there is a difference going on here. Stylistically, coming from a fine dining background, people might find some more refinement in the food. We've changed the nicoise salad — it's like night and day from what I came into. We started making a good amount of pasta, which we'll continue to do, as it's one of my strong suits. I'm looking at throwing more seafood on the menu. I'm trying to change it up from the standbys that Eastern Standard has always had, and go a little bit outside of our comfort zone on that.
Since first conducting this interview, final changes were made to the menu. The rigatoni was left on as a main. Campbell explains:
We were planning on taking the rigatoni off to make room for another seafood entrée. But looking at the scope of what we were doing, we decided against it for several reasons. One being a straight out cost issue. The other being it's so appealing to so many people and so many regulars, we're keeping it on for another go. We're certainly going the way with the kitchen that I want to go, but, you know, baby steps.
You've worked for both Barbara Lynch and Garrett Harker. They used to work together at both No.9 and B&G Oysters and their restaurants have been open for more than a combined 50 years. I'd like to know the similarities and differences between them.
That's a hard question to answer because they're from opposite sides of the house. Chef literally took my hand and taught me how to cook. My relationship with her lasted nearly ten years, and hopefully will continue. I can see how they worked together so well for so long in the first eight years or so that Garrett was at No. 9 opening it with her. Obviously they both have their different strengths — Garrett in the front of the house with guests and Barbara in the back. Aside from mannerisms and a lot of swears, I don't really see a big difference between the two. They both know exactly what they want out of their respective restaurants and how to motivate their teams to do so. They're both fixtures in the local dining scene for good reason.
Are there any items on this menu you'd like to highlight?
I'm excited about the fried Brussels sprouts with pickled lemon, Calabrian chile, and Pecorino Romano. I'm also pumped for the half roasted chicken that's been a Sunday special. It's now on the daily menu. I'm very particular about the way this chicken is getting cooked and treated. We've come up with the best, crispiest skin that we can and I'm pumped about something as simple as that.
I look forward to trying that. Eastern Standard and I go way back.
It goes way back with everyone. Until you've had the 14-hour Eastern Standard day under your belt, you can't really call yourself a diner in this city.
· Eastern Standard dinner menu (pdf) [Official Source]
· All coverage of Eastern Standard on Eater [~EBOS~]