What does a tomato taste like?

That was the question asked to me by Andy Husbands, Fearless Chef of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel as we sat together at Starbucks a few weeks ago. You see, I had scored an interview with Andy by contacting him through a mutual friend’s FaceBook page several weeks earlier. So here I sat, as this long-time Boston chef and cookbook author tried to explain to me what he’s all about and where his knowledge and style is taking him.

Me: “Umm… well let me start off by saying I love tomatoes and grow several types of heirloom tomatoes in my back yard, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…”

As I watched Andy raise an eyebrow and saw the smirk creep across his face, I knew that he thought I was either a wack-job or a moron… and he was probably wondering what the hell he was doing sitting across from me at that very moment. So after a bit of prompting on his part, I answered: “Savory?”

Andy: “Good, that’s a start. Tomatoes are sweet.”

You see, Andy’s idea is that anybody can cook if they can detect the different types of flavors dishes and foods exhibit and then apply those defined flavors to like-meals.

Andy: “What does salsa taste like?”

Me: Okay, I can do this… I know what he’s looking for now. “Savory, salty, hot…”

Andy: “Right. Sweet, salty, tart, hot, savory, herbal…”

Andy went on to explain how if you can define these distinct flavors that a “Salsa” has, you can easily create your own salsas just by using these flavors as a guideline.

Andy: “Sweet… that’s the tomatoes, or mangoes or anything else that is sweet. Salty is the salt. Tart is the lime juice or any other tart or sour component. Hot can be Jalapenos, savory? cumin. Herbal? Cilantro… or parsley… or some other herb. See what I’m getting at here?”

We continued our conversation, discussing how Andy wants to help the average cook learn to discern these flavors and hence, be a better cook. After all, his cookbook is called The Fearless Chef and the theme of the book follows the same premise… there’s no need to be afraid in the kitchen if you educate yourself with the right tools and know-how. Now, Andy’s book isn’t new to the shelves… it’s been around a while, but it’s still relevant — maybe now more than ever, as we try move in the direction of eating fresh foods, full of flavor… without additives, chemicals and other non-food ingredients — as Andy does in his restaurants.

So what’s next for Andy? Well, it sounds like he’s going to put his money where his mouth is (and that’s a big order to fill). He’s in the process of transitioning his restaurants to be green — starting on June 1st, he swapped out all his wine for 50 varieties of bio-dynamic, organic wine. He’s using organic fruits and vegetables, trying to buy local as much as possible, has started composting all the restaurant’s food scraps and is even recycling his cooking oil. His goal is to become 100% green, but that will take a little time.

Additionally, he has started thinking about and drafting material for a new blog he’s working on. A blog with a purpose — to educate his customers on how to taste and therefore, how to cook. I love this idea. As Andy pointed out to me, you can find many classes on how to taste wine or how to taste cheese… but where are the classes that teach you how to taste food? How do you refine and improve your palate if you can’t identify what you are tasting?

Just Google Andy’s name and you will find many pages — including YouTube videos on cooking — where you can see this bold personality at work. A personality that will bode well in the blogging world.

I wrapped up conversation with Andy by asking if I could have a tour of the kitchen at Tremont 647 sometime. Even better.. well, a LOT better… Andy offered me a night in the kitchen working alongside him and his staff. Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity and will be taking him on his offer sometime in the fall.

Finally, about a week after Andy and met… I emailed him some questions I thought of that I hadn’t had the opportunity to ask him. Here’s what he had to say:

Me: “First off… will you share what the O.C. in your name stands for?”
Andy: “Original Chef”

Me: “I understand why you have the pig tattoo on your arm but what about the gazelle? (if that’s what it even is)”
Andy: “Gazelle?? Try goat.”

Me: “Your menu is as bold as your personality, have both always been this way?”
Andy: “Yes I have, it’s a blessing if you ask me.”

Me: “What is your all time favorite food and/or dish?”
Andy: “Macaroni and cheese, Kraft Original. But I love a simple grilled steak with evoo and Lemon juice.”

Me: “Do you offer that on your menu?”
Andy: “A more advanced version — lobster mac and cheese- not Kraft.”

Me: “What is your secret splurge food?”
Andy: “SUSHI and SAKE it’s no secret.”

Me: “Is there anything you won’t eat?”
Andy: “I’ll try anything once, I’ve tried putrefied shark in Iceland — once was enough.”

Me: “Is there anything you have never eaten that you would like to try?”
Andy: “Lots.”

Me: “Is there anything you wish you could cook better or any new techniques you would like to learn?”
Andy: “Not really, if I want to learn something I do. I am always trying to learn more.”

Me: “Aside from your own, what is your [current] favorite restaurant in Boston?”
Andy: “I like Dante, Toro, Marco, and Sage.”

Me: “Any place overrated?”
Andy: “Of course not. ;-)”

Me: “How about undiscovered gems in or around Boston?”
Andy: “Taberna de Haro or is it Haro de Taberna — it rocks, but no body talks about it.”

Me: “What is Boston missing from a food perspective?”
Andy: “Awesome Mexican.”

Me: “Lastly, what is one thing that no one knows about you?”
Andy: “I am an open book? I am single?”

Well… I guess everyone knows it now.

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