Getting Salty with the Eliot Hotel’s Felipe Medina
Getting Salty is a new feature in which we ask someone hard at work in the restaurant industry to dish about their job and Boston’s culinary scene.
Light bulb broken? Floors need waxing? Someone clamoring for a business breakfast — right this minute? The Eliot Hotel’s Felipe Medina, 49, is your guy. Colleagues (and fans) know him as the hotel’s everyman: The kitchen manager and breakfast cook whips up waffles, French toast, and sweet potato hash at Uni, the hotel restaurant run by super-chefs Ken Oringer and Tony Messina; manages private events; and pitches in wherever duty calls, even if that means scrubbing floors. He followed his brother from Colombia to Boston as a teenager, and the move worked out: He celebrates his 20th anniversary at the Back Bay hotel this month.
What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? In 1987, I went to Newbury Street and ate at Davio’s. I loved it. I had the Alfredo pasta.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? I wish there were more culinary schools.
How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived? Before, there weren’t too many restaurants. Now, there are almost too many!
What other restaurants do you visit? I love Uni! And I like Gourmet Dumpling House downtown.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think, “I want to work in restaurants”? I used to cook back home. I’d experiment. I’m from Colombia, and we’d cook sancocho: a stew of vegetables, rice, beef, carrots, plantains, and yucca.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? No experiences in particular, but I really, really don’t like garbanzo beans.
How could Boston become a better food city? We need more burritos, taquerias, and tapas.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Upscale, generous, and trendy.
What’s the most overdone trend right now? People come in with large parties, but now they don’t order enough food for the whole table. Or dumplings! Whichever restaurant you go to, they’re always on the menu.
What are you reading? Culinary books, especially on garnishes and decorations.
How’s your commute? I live in Orient Heights with my wife and kids. It takes 15 minutes by car.
What’s the one food you never want to cook again? Short ribs!
What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? I think we’re going to get more “infused” food restaurants, like Japanese-American, Korean-American, or Chinese-American.
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? Clio. I miss the food. I miss the foie gras and the duck.
Who was your most memorable customer? One time a guest came into the kitchen after breakfast, gave me a tip, and complimented me on my Western omelet. He told me it was the best Western he’d ever had. And he liked my waffles, too!
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? I’d go to Toro! There are so many different flavors. I’d definitely order the foie gras a la plancha and the grilled corn. Oh, and the jamon!