Chef Tony Maws
“It was really impressive to see the acclaimed chef in the kitchen…”
Tony Maws is a non-traditional chef – an “idealist with a kitchen” might be a more appropriate job description. His ideology: that local, seasonal and sustainably sourced ingredients are intrinsically better, and that these ingredients form the most significant part of what makes great food great.
His resolute commitment to these tenets may have made Tony something of a pioneer in the “locavore” movement and in “Nose to Tail” cooking, but he admits that these ideas are not particularly novel. “Basically,” says Tony, “these are ideas that are shared by about 90% of the world’s grandmothers.”
Much as he honors his Grandmother and culinary muse Hannah, Tony’s international acclaim is surely the result of other factors as well: his relentlessly innovative culinary techniques are precise enough to baffle any grandma and his ability to match just the right food combinations to create the perfect dish has been called “uncanny.”
Despite his modest ambitions and major space limitations at Craigie Street Bistrot, word got out, and before long Tony’s combination of a Parisian “slow-food” philosophy with ingredients from New England began to earn widespread attention, including being named as one of America’s top 10 new chefs by Food & Wine magazine and Boston’s best chef by Boston magazine. He has also been featured in Travel & Leisure magazine, Gourmet magazine, the Boston Globe and numerous others. From the humble little-bistrot-that-could, Maws found himself being invited to appear on NBC’s Today Show and Fox News, and cooking at culinary events in locations as diverse as Singapore and Aspen, Colorado.
At Craigie On Main, Tony’s earthy side and his mad-scientist side combine to create a menu best described as “refined rusticity.” This restaurant, opened in November 2008, is a newer, more spacious incarnation of Craigie Street Bistrot, Tony’s first labor-of-love located a couple miles down Mass Ave., which opened in 2002. Tony takes pride in the fact that the spirit of his tiny bistrot remains alive and well in his new space.
The new location and international recognition (including a James Beard Award for Best Chef, Northeast) have not changed Tony’s hands-on approach at Craigie On Main. Far from being an “executive chef,” he works practically every night as a line cook.
Since he was a teenager, Tony always worked in restaurants —17 in all — and has performed every restaurant job. His real culinary training, though, was earned through what might be called “The Long and Winding Road Cooking School” (apologies to Sir Paul McCartney). After earning a BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan (which, surprisingly, does occasionally come in handy in the restaurant business), Tony embarked on an eight-year journey that included stints under local chefs Kenneth Oringer at Restaurant Clio and Steve Johnson at the Blue Room; Bernard Constantin at Larivore in Lyon, France; Roland Passot at La Folie and Wolfgang Puck at Postrio in San Francisco; and Mark Miller at the Coyote Café in Santa Fe. Tony is particularly grateful to Chef Chris Schlesinger, for giving him his first big break: a chance to chop vegetables at the East Coast Grill.
Tony grew up just across the river in Newton, and now lives in Cambridge with his wife Karolyn and their baby son Charlie. His career highlight to date was last year when he got to cook for his favorite band, Wilco. His interests include the Red Sox, reading cookbooks for pleasure (he has a collection of more than 200), skiing, eating Chinese food, and traveling — particularly to France.