Tom Berry, 45, started his career at Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger as a line cook, moving up to executive sous chef. He later opened Cambridge’s Hotel Marlowe and worked as a chef at Temple Bar. In 2015, he joined the COJE Management Group as culinary director, overseeing swanky spots such as Yvonne’s, Lolita, and Ruka. In the coming weeks, he’ll open Mariel, bringing Cuban food to Post Office Square.
What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? East Coast Grill. It was brunch, and it was spicy as hell. That’s all I remember.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? More cooks! Same story everyone has, I suppose.
How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? Besides fewer cooks? Much more focus on social media and presentation, to the point that it almost has become more important than the food itself at times.
What other restaurants do you visit? I have an 11-month-old, so not as many as I would like! I try to support newer places and check things out, but honestly I live in Charlestown — I’ve been going to Alcove a ton since it opened. Not just because it’s convenient. The oysters are incredible, and they’re baby-friendly.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think, ‘I want to work in restaurants?’ A lemon Dijon chicken on the cover of Bon Appetit when I was 13. It was a sample issue. For whatever reason, I saw it and wanted to make it, even though we had humble food in our house. I let all my friends try it. It was an amazing feeling.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? I would say the service at a Michelin restaurant in Paris, Alain Ducasse’s one-Michelin-star brasserie. It was a terrible table against dirty glasses. There were fruit flies, and it was very expensive for plain vegetables. It wasn’t a wonderful evening. It wasn’t befitting the price. You’re in Paris, expecting great things, and when someone under-delivers at that price point, it’s memorable.
How could Boston become a better food city? I don’t want to sound negative, but I’d say we need to stop talking about it so much. I see that question a lot, people weighing in on social media, this and that. I think if we worried less about it and worried about creating great, interesting, fun restaurants, we would become a better food city.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Particular, loyal, mildly adventurous.
What’s the most overdone trend right now? Fast-casual bowls. Downtown, you’re pushing through crowds of people, carrying bowls of stuff.
What are you reading? I haven’t even started it! I’m planning to! I’m terrible with titles. It’s about a guy in Singapore and how he conned everyone into thinking he’s a billionaire: “Billion Dollar Whale.”
How’s your commute? Getting worse every single minute. I’m in Charlestown. It shouldn’t be bad! I take the Orange Line or the Green Line or I drive, but it depends what restaurant I need to be in and if I need to drop the baby off. There have been a lot of traffic pattern changes around town. It’s great for bikers and horrible for drivers. Nothing against bike lanes, but some prevent cars from turning right. It backs up by the Museum of Science.
What’s the one food you never want to eat again? Goat cheese. Hate it.
What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? A great Filipino place. A modern Filipino restaurant.
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? East Coast Grill pops to mind really quick.
Who was your most memorable customer? I think the ones I had the most fun with were the Dave Matthews Band at Blue Ginger. Dave Matthews wasn’t there, but everyone else was. They were into the food, tasting things, having fun, and very friendly. We’d always had an executive sous chef, Budi, and I had been promoted to his job. He’d left the week before. He was the hugest Dave Matthews fan, and he left. I felt a little guilt and a little excitement.
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? It’s going to sound ridiculous, but Bob’s Italian Foods in Medford. I would order a giant tuna sub.