Derek Robert has been working in restaurants since he was 14 years old. He started as a dishwasher, climbing his way to the line. Once he got there he was hooked.

Derek went on to graduate from the Connecticut Culinary Institute in 2008 and spent years in Newport, RI perfecting his butchery, fermentation, and pasta skills before joining Chef/Owner Matt Jennings at Townsman. Two years later he was named Chef de Cuisine.

Now, Derek combines his skills, and passion for blending traditional and modern ideas, as executive chef at The Emory. We met with him ahead of his upcoming appearance at the Taste of WGBH Food & Wine Festival, to learn more about his culinary style, and to find out what the one thing on his menu is that everyone needs to try. Excerpts from our conversation below.

Pasta being cooked by executive chef Derek Robert at The Emory in Boston, MA.
Meghan Smith

Three words you would use to describe the cuisine at The Emory
Fun, approachable, communal. A lot of the dishes are meant to be shareable plays on things that people have had before, with a little bit of our spin. It's meant to make people feel comfortable ordering anything on the menu, but to give them a little surprise when they taste it.

The one dish on your menu that everyone needs to try
The sweetbreads. It's a great example of putting a twist on something people have had countless times before and making it a completely new thing.

Sweetbreads at The Emory, Boston, MA.
Brian Samuels for The Emory

Sweetbreads in and of themselves are a great place to start for people who are a little apprehensive about organ meat in general. Then when we prepare them with our hot sauce, pickled celery, and blue cheese mousse, they come off as even more familiar and approachable.

The one thing you most excited about participating in this year’s Chef’s Gala?
Getting out into the community and getting people excited about what we are doing at the restaurant.

The Chef's Gala is sold out, but tickets are still available for other events at the 2019 Taste of WGBH Food & Wine Festival. Get yours today!