Getting Salty with Micole Rivera Suarez
Micole Rivera Suarez is the new chef de cuisine at Artisan Bistro and Avery Bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Boston, by way of the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan. The luxury properties are a long way from her first restaurant job, at a food truck in her native Puerto Rico. Now, she hopes to add Argentine and Caribbean twists to the hotel’s more traditional bistro menus.
What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? When I finally moved here from Puerto Rico, I went to Brassica [Kitchen + Café] — it was this little, quaint restaurant. The menu was fantastic: tapas, small meals. It was great for sharing and a great date-night situation. I go once a month because they change their menu daily, and it’s one of my favorites.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? I think I’d want more female presence, honestly. I know Barbara Lynch, with her several restaurants, and Joanne Chang and Lydia Shire. I just wish there were more proud women wanting to stand out and work hard to get out there.
How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? For me, it hasn’t. There was this gastro-pub, indie restaurant scene when I got here, and it’s gearing more toward that. It’s millennial and hipster.
What other restaurants do you visit? Since I do live in Jamaica Plain, I like to stay in that area. I’m a neighborhood restaurant kind of girl: Tres Gatos, Ten Tables, Doyle’s Café, all so close to my house. It’s practical for me.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think: I want to work in restaurants? In college, I was a biology major. I was going to be a vet. I couldn’t study for a semester, so I decided to get a job as a waitress. I just didn’t have the money. I was putting myself through school. Six months later, I changed my entire degree to culinary management because I couldn’t get away.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? I was at a small boutique hotel in Puerto Rico. I used to love it, right in front of the beach. The view was beautiful, and the restaurant was fantastic, very French with a Puerto Rican scene as well. The owners had changed, and the experience was so different. The service wasn’t there, and the food was lacking. We had a great weekend in front of the beach, but it wasn’t what I wanted or what I actually had remembered. Nobody really wanted to actually serve you — period. And this is a small boutique hotel! But I heard the [old owners] bought it back, and it’s doing very well.
How could Boston become a better food city? I hate the fact that everything closes so early. Every once in a while, I want to go to a nearby food truck and buy a sandwich at 2 a.m. I want good food late at night. Everything closes way too early for me. Close to me, everything dies out.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Fast-paced, traditional, and educated. People here do not want to stop for anything, they’re picky, and they know what they want to eat.
What’s the most overdone trend right now? Gluten. Everything gluten-free.
What are you reading? When I do have time to read, I’m reading the “Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste” by Dominique Crenn, which is great. She’s another female chef out in California.
How’s your commute? It is a 20-minute commute. I live three minutes walking from the T. I get on and go straight to Chinatown. Thirty minutes, if it’s today’s weather.
What’s the one food you never want to eat again? Dried anchovies! Disgusting!
What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? Something I truly miss is the fine art of international bakeries. I miss getting fresh bread and pastries while waiting for a sandwich.
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? I don’t have anything I miss yet, to be honest. I hope what I do like, I don’t get to miss!
Who was your most memorable customer? In the hotel restaurant business, you deal with a lot of families. I remember this little girl [in Puerto Rico], her name was Alexandra. She was with her whole family. It was a slow night. I decided to walk down to the restaurant and saw she was there, kind of bored. We decided to invite her to the kitchen and make pizzas. There are so many pictures of this! We made fresh dough; she did the saucing and put it in the oven herself. We put a chef hat on her. It was great, honestly. A few months later, her family had come back just to visit. They said that she wanted to come visit me again. It was so nice to have that bond. She made her own little memory that reminded her of me.
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? This is a hard one! I love food. I’ve only found blood sausage at one place. It’s at Terra, the new restaurant that they opened up in Eataly. It’s the most fantastic thing for me! I think I ordered it twice.