The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2014

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22  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2014 CHEFS: ONE-ON-ONE WITH MERRILL SHINDLER L ike most masters of seafood, Robert Sisca—Executive Chef and partner at Bistro du Midi in Boston—grew up by the sea, surrounded by fish and develop- ing a passion for ocean-going protein. You want to talk fluke, hake, flounder? He'll regale you with tales of fishing during his boyhood on Long Island and how just the other day he went surf casting in the waters off Narragansett. He's a chef whose fondest memories are of cooking seafood with his mother and his grand- mother—family cooking that prepared him for an education at Johnson & Wales and for time spent under Éric Ripert as his Sous Chef at Le Bernardin. Working in the "home of the bean and the cod," he leans more towards the cod than the bean and more towards the loup de mer, rouget, rascasse and Saint-Pierre in his Marseilles-worthy bouillabaisse, but he's never far from his roots in the chilly waters of New England. Merrill Shindler: What are your earliest food memories? Robert Sisca: Every August, my mom would make blue crab claw. We'd spend hours, days, making tomato sauce. My grandparents were from Naples, so their red sauce had to be just right. I learned to take time and that a little herb could change everything. What were your first dishes? I started helping out in the kitchen when I was 13 or 14. I cooked with my mom and my grandmother. We made zuppa di pesce for Christmas, which took days to make. The flavors had to be adjusted, but it was always perfect. I learned how things should taste. I learned to respect ingredients. After Johnson & Wales, you cooked at Gracie's in Providence, Bosun's Bistro in Nantucket, One If By Land, Two If By Sea in New York and then you were hired at Le Bernardin. What did you learn from Éric Ripert? At Le Bernardin, everyone starts at the bottom. You make salads until you learn the proper method, the right seasoning. When I finally was able to work with sea- food, I learned to treat it with respect. I learned not to overpower it, and I learned to never overcook it. That's why I have so many crudos on my menu—the less cooking, the better. Do you cook with your children? I have twins, aged nine months. But they're showing interest. Is your wife nervous cooking for you? Not at all. She's the cook in our house. I get home at midnight or later, she has a meal of chicken and pasta waiting for me. And ice cream—I love Ben & Jerry's. Robert Sisca BISTRO DU MIDI, BOSTON

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