The host of WGBH’s new “Neighborhood Kitchens”
series explores the cultures of local communities through restaurants, cooking with chefs who are bringing international flavors to New England. She blogs and posts recipes at www.wgbh.org/neighborhood
‘We chose restaurants that . . . are really a part of their neighborhoods and also incorporating their culture into the cuisine that they are preparing.’
“Neighborhood Kitchens” airs Sundays at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 2.
Q. How do you choose the restaurants and neighborhoods you profile?
A. We choose restaurants that have excellent food, prepared and served it well, and also a nice ambience and welcoming atmosphere. On top of that, they are really a part of their neighborhoods and also incorporating their culture into the cuisine that they are preparing. Those are ideal candidates.
Q. Outside of the food, there’s a lot of background about the surrounding neighborhoods.
A. I see this show as part travel show as well as cooking show. We definitely wanted to have the history of the neighborhoods and then show how different restaurants — whether they’re the new kid on the block or they’ve been there for years — what has happened to the neighborhood and how they’ve been a part of it and the different changes.
Q. Sunday’s premiere focuses on Orinoco in the South End, though that isn’t the first place you filmed. Why did you choose that restaurant and neighborhood as a launching point?
A. I think that Orinoco is a unique place. Chef Carlos [Rodriguez] and [owner] Andres [Branger] are just such welcoming people and it’s such a neighborhood institution in the South End. It just felt really comfortable to start with them and it felt like a very good way to kick off our series, especially because their connection is so rooted in their community and in their neighborhood. And there’s a lot of give and take with that restaurant and the community of the South End.
Q. In what ways does a restaurant’s culture interact with the culture of the surrounding neighborhood?
A. It definitely goes two ways. It’s an introduction to the culture of the restaurant that is being opened but when people come in, there’s sharing of ideas. Some chefs say they’ve made certain foods, like at Orinoco, chef Carlos says that he makes certain dishes and then if they’re not well-received, he talks to his clientele like, “What didn’t you like about it?” So he tries to think of ways, like, “I’m going to have the arepas, but then I’m going to put something in it like a portabello mushroom that you’re familiar with.” So it’s kind of a transition or easing into it. But a lot of chefs bring in seafood and there’s all these different combinations of not being exclusive [to their culture] but also inviting in all the different cultures.
Q. What do you hope viewers gain from this, beyond a rumbling stomach?
A. We definitely want them to be hungry — and hungry to be adventurous and try new things, either new ingredients that they haven’t cooked with before, going to these restaurants in these different neighborhoods, or even going to neighborhoods that they might not think to go to, to get food or a taste of culture. Just to want to try new things and to keep exploring. We’re kind of a guide to, “OK, here’s a taste. You can start here and then go somewhere else.”
Q. What do you have planned for the show as it progresses?
A. We want to go to some areas outside of Boston, places that aren’t on the T, if you will. For instance, we’re investigating going to places in Lawrence and Providence. And in the beginning, we’ve had a lot of focus on Latin food because it’s become a really big trend across the nation. There are a lot of Latin restaurants that are opening up in Boston, and there are a lot that have been here for a very long time. We’re also going into other types of cuisine from around the world and trying to get authentic recipes and tastes and explorations of cultures and neighborhoods. So we started in Latin and we’re hoping to, and we will, expand the breadth of what we’re exploring.