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Chew Attempts Licensing Innovation Between Harvard and MIT

Chew to Commission: This is a restaurant. Commission to Chew: Not yet.

Ceci n'est pas une carotte.
Ceci n'est pas une carotte.
Adam Melonas

Chew is located on Western Avenue between Central Square and Kendall, beneath a large carrot sign with no name. From the outside it looks like a test kitchen. According to its website, it is the home of "snack food engineers." According to its Twitter account, it is "about providing a solution to the world's health and sustainability issues one delicious bite, sip or crunch at a time." According to a recent Cambridge Day article, its owner, globally renowned chef Adam Melonas, would like it to be a 58-seat restaurant "open on an infrequent basis." What Chew is not, at least until an agreement can be reached with the Cambridge License Commission, is a place where people can actually eat food.

The highly entertaining dialogue between the two sides was detailed on Cambridge Day, in which Melonas made the case to be more or less open because, as he said, "So throughout this next period obviously I am in there innovating, I’ve got food scientists and other chefs in there every single day creating these things. If we aren’t able to open the doors in the next six months, then we can’t test them." To which the Commission responded that in order to get a license you need to be open to the public during certain posted hours. Melonas ask if there was a minimum number of hours a restaurant had to be open and if he could be open just a single day. The Commission responded by saying they were concerned that Melonas would be alright, financially. Melonas said he would be alright, financially. The whole thing threatened to veer into some sort of pseudo-philosophical debate over the definition of the word "open," what exactly is a restaurant (or test kitchen, or food lab), and how far the letter of the law could be bent, there between Harvard and MIT, in the name of innovation. The two sides agreed to go to their separate corners and think about it, to convene again at a later date.

In the meantime, Cambridge residents—as well as food writers, lawyers, and undergrad philosophy students—can look forward to following the back and forth. Which we would only encourage Chew to push in a further effort to redefine the letter of the law, even as it seeks to define what exactly it is.