Nuno Alves has long been an integral part of the team at Tavolo in Dorchester, serving as executive chef and general manager as well as heading up pastry. Before that, Alves worked for several years at Rialto, among various other restaurants in the city. He leaves Boston for warmer weather at the start of the new year.
Congrats on your move! Aside from the obvious positive change in weather, what sparked this move for you?
"I'm just going back to island life."
A bunch of different reasons. For one, my wife is from there, and we've talked about this for a long time — since my first visit to Hawaii, actually. It was love at first sight, and it was such a great experience being there. It's just a whole different type of melting pot. I was born on an island in the Atlantic, so now I'm moving to an island in the Pacific. I'm just going back to island life. We just knew we wanted to build a family there, and once we got married, we knew this was going to happen. It's just time for us. The winters seem to be getting colder.
I was going to ask you about that. Are you going miss New England weather?
[Laughs.] No. I mean, I can always come back to it, but it will be nice to get away from those winters. It's just going to be nice moving there without really having any expectations, which is something I really haven't had before. I've spent a lot of time focusing on the restaurant and thinking of how to move up and having those certain expectations, but right now, this is the first time I can really just focus on us and build something that is going to be long-lasting and then dive into something else that is going to be very exciting. Whatever that ends up being.
I've never been to Hawaii. What is it like in terms of the food scene?
"People are going surfing before work and then again after work."
The restaurant scene is a lot different than what it is here. It's more laid-back. But there are a lot of similarities, too. The chefs are all tight and close-knit there, and they've been building a huge farm-to-table movement and focusing on using all aspects of the island, which is something I love to do and do here a lot. <i>This is what we have, this is what we use,</i> and I just love that. Everything's on a different pace. It's just a whole different way of life. People are appreciative and respectful, just like Boston, but it's a lot warmer and it's a slower pace. You know, people are going surfing before work and then again after work.
Do you surf?
I've surfed a couple of times, but I'm going to be doing it a lot, lot more. I really enjoy just being around the water. And I'll be able to go fishing more, and I'm really excited about that. The products that they have there, all the different types of fish. It's going to be exciting, and I'm really looking forward to adding my Portuguese flavors to stuff that they have out there.
Are there any dishes or ingredients that you're particularly excited for?
Yeah, taro. And I love loco moco; that's one of my favorites. It's a burger patty with fried rice, fried egg, and gravy. You know, a nice healthy dish for breakfast.
We're also excited for the restaurants there. We like finding those holes-in-the-wall-type places with, like, 30 seats. You usually get the best food at those places. There's just a slower pace for food, too. People don't mind waiting, because they can see that people are running around and working hard, and they know the food is worth the wait.
What are you going to miss most about restaurant life here in Boston?
Everything about it, but mostly the people that I became great friends with and the chefs around town. It's such a small community, and I'll miss going to events and knowing everyone. It's just been a long time here, and we've met and have gotten to know so many great people. That's what I'm going to miss a lot.
So over your years here, what are some really standout moments for you?
You're looking at it. This is my standout moment, being able to do what I've been able to do and create what I've been able to create. It's been really special, starting as a chef and working up to other roles too. Rialto was great; I mean, I was there for eight-and-a-half years, and I made a lot of friends and learned so, so much. But it's been great to do things like cooking classes and to be able to build that confidence in myself that I can teach people and take young staff under my wing. That's one of my favorite things. I've also been able to help build the brand here, and it's been great to get to understand that.
What's the plan for you when you get there?
"We're actually shipping 125 pounds of piri piri sauce to Hawaii."
I'm going to go to the beach. That's plan number one. Just unwind for a bit and get settled. I'm sure I'll eventually bounce around a little bit at restaurants; I don't think I can stay out of the kitchen too long. I don't want to go in full-speed because once I do that, I'm in 110%. I'm tired, and I just want some time. I might do something with farmers' markets, like have a little pop-up there or something like that to get my name out there a little. People really respect how you use things from the island down there, and I'm really looking forward to making personal connections with people and interacting with people, and that reflects on the food. Something like that would be fun. And I'll definitely have piri piri sauce too. We're actually shipping 125 pounds of piri piri sauce to Hawaii. I mean, I need it. They don't have the peppers that I need there, so I'll have to find someone to grow them for me.
But hopefully the opportunity will just pop up for a little restaurant or a butcher shop or just something really quaint. I want to do something really small and not scale it up too much. It'll just be really, really cool. But right now, it's all about the beach, family, and seeing what Hawaii has to offer.