My daughter and I recently caught up with Chef Tony Maws to taste some of his new menu items on the grown up and the kids menu at Kirkland Tap and Trotter. We sat ringside for our chat with Chef .
As we talked, Chef Maws would step away to taste food being prepped in the kitchen, check orders going out, and work with his kitchen adjusting, and teaching as he went. He would call out “Guys, spaghetti sauce on the side.” reminding the kitchen of a child’s specific request. Moments later, “Kids pasta on the fly” is called out. In fact, when we returned a few days later as a family for brunch, my son was the child tugging on my shirt asking for a second serving of the pasta. Later that evening, a dad and two children came by to thank the chef and apologize for the extra pasta order (you never know with kids). Dad had a big smile as he mentioned they were taking the extra pasta to go!
When you first opened Craigie St. Bistrot in Cambridge did you have a vision of where you would be 5 years down the road?
Chef Tony Maws (T.M.): No vision. I just wanted to start a restaurant and get really good at what I was doing.
How has parenthood changed you as a chef?
T.M.: It makes me ask questions. I cook the same. My wife and I decided that we would cook what we cook and if our son didn’t like it that was too bad. We were wondering if things would come up now that Charlie goes to school, but he takes his lunch, or occasionally wants pizza at school. He once asked, maybe because it was served at a birthday party or he saw something about Domino’s and asked why they don’t eat Domino’s. I wanted to be careful not to answer in a way that judges what people eat, but just to let Charlie know it’s just not what we do because we think there are better pizzas made with better ingredients.
What was important for you as you developed this children’s menu to make it your own?
T.M.: I wrote down a list of what is on other kids menus. Then, I thought about how I can make this food in the way I would want it. We worked on the hot dog for about a year. For the fried chicken, we made with different batters until we got it exactly right. We have really good meat scraps, ham scraps, and we put them in our meat sauce for the house made spaghetti.
Did Charlie have input? [Charlie is Chef Tony Maws’ son.]
T.M.: Charlie did the drawings for the menu. I asked him to draw what he thought people would like.
Where do you like to dine out with Charlie?
T.M.: We like to go to Chinatown. It’s easy enough to find dishes that we can all eat or take things out that Charlie will eat. We also like Chili Garden in Medford or pho at Super 88
Do you have childhood memories of dining out?
T.M.: Yes plenty. Both my parents worked and we lived in the South End before it was the South End. My parents had a brownstone they redid and the kitchen was the last thing to be done so we’d go to Chinatown a lot for dinner.
Did you have concerns about making Tap & Trotter more family friendly?
T.M.: No. I knew I wanted this restaurant to be more accessible. Families with kids tend to come earlier in the evening. If anything, I’d love to see more of them in. I want to share this food that we worked hard on.
Clearly your time in France has a big influence on how you cook, are there things about French culture that have influenced other parts of your life? parenthood?
T.M.: All of us are shaped in our lives by different aspects of living, eating and food. I think in France, and other countries I’ve been to they have a different appreciation of food. There is the tradition of the meal although we are regaining that here with the popularity of restaurants and dining out. I also like the tradition of cooking and eating at home. Family gathered around the table with food. Food and good conversation is a wonderful experience.