Harvard Square is peppered with its share of rich traditions, academic and otherwise. Among its many institutions sits Harvest, one of the Greater Boston area’s long celebrated restaurants. As it basks in the light of its fourth decade in operation, the torch has been passed to a new generation… in the kitchen that is. Claiming that helm is rising star Tyler Kinnett, a 2009 graduate of the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. After serving as Harvest’s Sous Chef for the past three years, Kinnett is eager to build on and share his “produce-driven” cooking bursting with fresh regional ingredients. He brings to his new role at Harvest a palette of all things current and a deep respect for the restaurant’s legacy.
Stay tuned to Harvest and their robust line-up of special events (including their intimate evenings in the kitchen with cookbook authors) through their website and on Facebook. And, check out Harvest’s Happy Thanksgiving menu featuring Foraged Mushroom Risotto, Juniper Grilled Venison with Roasted Cauliflower, Pumpkin Pie Donuts and much more! As the culinary team at Harvest prepares to dive into the holiday season, we sat down with Chef Tyler to talk tomatoes and kitchen utensils and self-discovery through food!
Harvest is in the midst of celebrating its fourth decade in operation. What does the next decade look like (for the restaurant) in your eyes, and how does your kitchen remain loyal to its rich heritage while also keeping current with the changing times?
Thinking about Harvest in its next decade from now is an interesting thing, considering that it already feels like something much larger than anyone or anything specifically. Harvest has never been the “trendy” restaurant, which says a lot about it longevity. It has always been the restaurant where chefs push themselves to new heights. That is probably the reason why people keep coming back to Harvest, as it constantly evolves into something new and it can be an exciting dinner.
I have the torch now, so that means that it’s my responsibility to keep the life alive through creativity and passion. Something that I say over and over again to my team is that restaurants can’t be great solely because they were built that way; it takes passionate people striving to do great things. In a way, that’s what fuels Harvest – passionate chefs on their own unique personal journey of self-discovery through food. That’s what’s been here for four decades, and I hope to pass that along to the next one after me to keep this restaurant a “culinary think tank” for chefs.
You are a rising chef among many as the Greater Boston restaurant scene continues to sizzle. How do you carve your path and create a signature here in town?
Uniqueness is important to me. I never consider what others are doing, although I do watch just to keep track, but it’s strictly observational. Cooking has become so personal for me recently and the idea needs to come to light organically. I’m in the process of finding my identity as a cook, which is exciting for me, but I’m nowhere close. It’s almost like a transformation and broadening of my understanding. I’m at a point now where I try to avoid influence because I want everything to be a reflection of me and my perspective of the world. I don’t want to cook like anyone else – that would be disappointing. Carving my own style and uniqueness is due to the process of self-discovery, trial and error.
Harvest has a robust line-up of special events, some of which involve you working in concert with other leading chefs from throughout the country… How are in-house events such as these integral to your continuing education? How do they offer patrons another avenue for experiencing Harvest?
The guest chef dinners at Harvest are a great way for me to see another chef’s thought process. I love the dinners because you get to see someone out of their comfort zone, trying to show who they are on the plate with food. The guests really love it because it’s new, exciting and fresh. The chefs we host are always so nice and unique, and helping them cook is a huge honor for us. Most chefs are so busy being hospitable, it’s nice to repay them with our own hospitality.
Three kitchen utensils you are never without?
Pen and notebook: I write down everything and require my team to do the same. Not just tasks, but ideas. Sometimes the best ideas are forgotten because they’re never written down. They are lightning bolt moments that happen so fast they need to be captured quickly, or they’re gone.
Honing steel: It goes hand in hand with my knife. For as lustily as chefs buy and talk about their knives, I think that most chefs do a poor job of knife maintenance. I swipe my knife across the steel throughout the cooking process.
Tweezers: Not just because we like platting things nicely, but because tweezers are a better alternative to sticking your fingers in mise en place all day. It’s a much cleaner way of working.
Tomatoes, corn and herbs, herbs, herbs… As frost and other seasonal factors approach here in New England, do you have any suggestions for these lingering crops?
Corn, tomatoes and all of the food that summer seems to produce in overabundance should all be preserved and captured in a jar! Jarring is so much fun to do and seeing your work proudly displayed on a wall ready eat is a truly fantastic feeling. Want make chili in January? How about some local tomatoes instead of the store-bought canned stuff? Startup costs are minimal, just a few simple tools and a book about jarring. Thanks all you need! It’s something that we do in the restaurant from time to time that we really look forward to.
You have an evening off and can break bread with three other chefs in and around the city. Who are they?
To be completely honest, I really don’t hang out with chefs or spend enough time with them to know any of them well. It’s never been my “scene”….so to speak. I would much rather have dinner with my kitchen team. I would love to see them be able to relax, eat some good food and have a beer instead of eating it quickly out of a quart container before service. I would also invite the farmers and foragers we work with, because they’re all kind, interesting people with great stories and personalities. I’m so lucky to have so many great people working with me!
Harvest is open daily and is located on the walkway at 44 Brattle Street in Cambridge.