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Gary Danko on the New England Food Scene

Photo: Gary Danko (right) with Patrick O'Connell at Menton, February 2014/Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Gary Danko, chef/owner of Gary Danko in San Francisco, was in Boston last week to participate in the two-part fundraiser for the Barbara Lynch Foundation, a Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef dinner at Menton and the Toques & Tonic benefit at the Children's Museum. The area's not too unfamiliar to him; he owns two houses in Provincetown and spent a few years living in Vermont.

Eater Boston caught up with Danko in the kitchen at the dinner on Thursday night, and he chatted a bit bout the New England food scene.

Have you spent much time in Boston?
I lived in Vermont for four years and studied with this French woman, Madeleine Kamman, who is from Boston. I used to come down every week with Madeleine; we'd go shopping. I tried to move to Boston right out of culinary school — I graduated in 1977, and back in those days, there were only two cooking schools in the whole country. I first actually went to Johnson & Wales, and during that period, I went to Boston, and I also discovered the Cape. To sort of bring it full-term, two years ago, I bought a house in Provincetown, so I'm making more trips to Boston — probably six times a year. I'm going to get to know Boston better. As soon as I finish all my remodels, I'll have more time to actually kick back and relax. And I love the accent in Boston!

Would you ever want to open a restaurant in Boston?
Let's see; let's put my age in there. Nah, probably not. Even anywhere. I've been cooking for, like, 45 years now. It's kind of crazy. I just have my one restaurant.

What do you think of the New England food scene?
Typically back in those days, it was kind of the blinders on in New England cooking, but the chefs — my generation of chefs and the ones behind us — have really worked hard to change that. I don't really like the phrase "farm-to-table," but chefs are going out and really locating great products and people who are making great products. I did a lot of that in Vermont, and in many ways I feel like Vermont is more organic as a state than California is, which is kind of interesting. I love going to the farmer's market there. I buy everything, because the produce looks organic and it tastes organic.

The food scene in Boston has really evolved over the years. Don't get me wrong; I love the classics — the chowders, all the seafood, and all that stuff. There are some classics on the Cape — grapenut pudding, have you ever heard of it? There's a mock cherry pie that's made with cranberries. But I think the food here has made amazing leaps. Boston's always had some really great restaurants, like L'Espalier years ago, and that's still around.

There's great stuff happening all over these cities in America, there really is. It's very interesting. It's exciting.
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