Restaurateur Kathy Sidell travels the world in search of inspiration to bring back to her Boston eateries, which include Saltie Girl, MET Back Bay, and Stephanie’s on Newbury. But she didn’t always intend to pursue a career in the restaurant business. Sidell joined WGBH’s Henry Santoro to talk about her transition from producing feature films to fresh fish. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Henry Santoro:. Before we jump into what's new in your food world, let's begin with the fact that you're a local girl, from Brookline and Newton. You studied film at Columbia. You studied theater at Wheaton. How did you end up in the hospitality business, and why aren't you on the big screen?
Kathy Sidell: You've done your research. I was always behind the camera, first of all —never in front of the camera. And I just had two passions in life, food and film, and it was a battle between the two of them for a long time for me. My family has a history in the food business, and they kept wanting to pull me and lure me in, and I kept saying “no.” I owned a production company in Boston for many years and made way too many television commercials that took me around the world. And we made feature films. And I got to a place where I had children and was getting divorced. And my dad came around and said to me, “Well, you know, I have this location in Chestnut Hill. Are you ready?” And I thought, “Mm no, I'm not ready, Dad, unless I can get the corner.” And then I got the corner, and it was history from there.
Santoro: Like many restaurants these days, house-made potato chips have become a staple at Saltie Girl. And these chips that we get at Saltie Girl — everybody wants more. And so you have figured out a way to get these chips into people's hands.
Sidell: Yes, I have. It's an interesting process to go from owning restaurants and dealing with that every day and then trying to launch a product. And the most important thing for us was the quality. We wanted to mirror exactly what we had at Saltie Girl, so that you couldn't tell the difference between what we were handmaking and what was coming out of the bag. And I think we've come very, very close. The chip is delicious. It's thin, it's crispy, it's briny. It's all those things that we look for in a potato chip.
Santoro: They’re addicting. I mean, for chip lovers — and I love chips — they are addicting.
Sidell: And they’re a healthy portion. They’re an ounce and a half bag. Typically, when you get potato chips with a sandwich, they give you half an ounce. But we really wanted to go kind of big.
Santoro: Something else you've decided to make the leap into are bagel towers, with all the fixings of the best New York delis. What is a bagel tower, and how does Kathy Sidell take a bagel and lox with a schmear to the next level?
Sidell: Basically, it's just super high-quality fish that we've sourced, and it’s melt-in-your-mouth incredible. And it's super cool. You can pick what you want — pastrami, salmon, smoked salmon. We make a gorgeous pink peppercorn gravlax. And then we do all sorts of mix-ins in the cream cheese, and I'm not sure that I've seen that done before.
Santoro: And it’s Saturdays and Sundays at MET Back Bay until 3 o’clock.
Sidell: And people line up now at 9, the minute the doors open.