Welcome to Chef Faves, an Eater Boston series where local chefs share their current favorite dishes, ingredients, and more. Here's Steve "Nookie" Postal of Commonwealth.
[Photo: Steve "Nookie" Postal/Katie Chudy]
What's your current favorite dish in Boston?
I love Sarma. Cassie [Piuma] does a great job. She's an awesome person and a great chef. I also like Giulia a lot, too. You know what else I love? It's such a hole in the wall, but it's so good. I almost don't want to tell you. L'Impasto. It's a terrible name and it's, like, a two-person operation, but they make all of their own bread and all of their own pasta, and it's just really good. It's tiny; there are about five tables, but it's good and worth going to. I mean, there's good Italian-American food, and then there's bad Italian-American food. I love a really awesome chicken parm. It's so good.
What's your current favorite ingredient to use?
Eggplant. Yeah, I've been digging on the eggplant lately. I've been getting fairy tale, whites, and I've got some pinks [eggplant varieties] coming in tomorrow. You know, things are just starting to pop right now. Corn is in season, and tomatoes are just starting to come into season. I got some sun gold [tomatoes] yesterday, so it's all just starting to happen, but I've been cooking a lot of eggplant recently. I've just been craving it.
Where's your favorite place to go for food inspiration?
I know this sounds sort of cheesy, but my inspiration comes from the farmers. I talk to them almost every day. I mean, the way this restaurant is set up, it's super easy. I'm not a chef that has to come up with crazy combinations like cocoa nibs and amaranth and stuff. I don't do that. I just get the freshest ingredient that I can get my hands on, and then I just don't fuck it up. Well, I try not to anyway. That's just what we do. So I talk to farmers, and they're telling me that the eggplants are the best right now, so it's sort of easy that way.
What is one of your favorite food memories?
That's a tough one. I didn't really come from a food family and background. A big night out for us was, like, TGI Fridays, and that was rarely. My mom is not the greatest cook in the world. I mean, she was a single mother, so she did the best job that she could, but I remember my first day in culinary school — we made these stupid swans out of pâte à choux, and it was, like, the best thing I ever saw in my entire life. I couldn't believe that you could do this for a living and get paid. That was when I knew that's what I wanted to do. It was just so awesome to be able to play with food.
I just don't have any of those stories about my first oyster off the coast of Brittany or anything like that, but I remember making that swan. I went to culinary school because I had just gotten my bachelor's in economics, and I hate dressing up. My mom had gotten me a suit for graduation for all of my interviews — I had a bunch of them lined up — and I was getting fitted for my suit and thinking about how much I hated dressing up. So I went home and thought about what I could do where I don't have to dress up. I was watching TV and Martin Yan — you know, "Yan Can Cook" ̶ came on, and I thought, "Maybe I'll go to cooking school." So I found a cooking school in Cambridge, moved here, made pastry swans, and never looked back.
What are your favorite dishes currently on the menu, and what are you most looking forward to doing in the near future?
I really like that pulled pork sandwich that we just put on the menu. I like the barbecue sauce that's on it — it's made from Dr. Brown's black cherry soda. So we take the soda and reduce it down, and then we add classic barbecue sauce ingredients, except for sugar, because the soda already has that. When we first tried it, it didn't seem black cherry enough, so we added fresh black cherries to it too. I also really like the Kentucky wonder beans on the eggplant sandwich that we just added to the menu. They are coming from Verrill Farms, and we put chili flakes, garlic, and some fresh tomatoes from The Food Project. We braise them slowly so that they are super tender.
What is your favorite thing to cook at home in your (limited) spare time?
I love cooking simple stuff, and I usually cook on Sunday nights for my kids. It's always spaghetti and meatballs. My kids love it, and it's always a crowd pleaser. It's just spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread — maybe we'll try to sneak some broccoli in there — but that's it. Just simple.
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