Award-winning chef Tony Maws, owner of Craigie on Main in Cambridge and Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Somerville, was recently honored as a hero and honorary chair of No Kid Hungry. Maws joined WGBH's Henry Santoro for the latest edition of Henry in the Hub. Below is a transcript of their conversation. To listen to the interview, click on the audio player above.
Henry Santoro: Like many great chefs, Tony Maws started his culinary career as a pot washer when he was 15 years-old. One day, the cook of a restaurant he was working in didn't show up for work, and before Tony knew it, he was slicing, dicing, and making sense of the ingredients going into the pot in front of him. Tony now owns the incredibly popular restaurants Craigie on Main in Cambridge and Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Somerville. He's also the winner of a coveted James Beard Award. How he balances work, life and family is anyone's guess, but I think we're about to find out. Welcome, Tony. Good to see you.
Tony Maws: Good to be here, man. Good to see you too.
HS: First of all, congratulations on being named hero for No Kid Hungry. That's a very great honor.
TM: It feels ... that title, huh? That's little bit odd. But I love the organization, No Kid Hungry. I love what they stand for. I love the people that put in so many hours to try to solve this problem, which is, in our minds, it's a solvable problem. I think they have to pick someone every year, and this year it happened to be me.
HS: Well it didn't just happen to be you, they picked you for a reason.
TM: I think — what I said on stage is that I say yes a lot. They ask me to do things and I say yes. But they're tremendous, and the work they do is unbelievable and I think really important, and really shouldn't be about politics. I mean, we're talking about feeding kids here. So if that ever falls into any sort of political camp, I think we've got much bigger problems.
HS: You are a local guy — you grew up in Newton, you traveled around a bit, but you always found yourself coming back home. How does it feel knowing that you are now helping to shape the food community here in the Boston area?
TM: I don't really think of it that way, and when you said it, it sounds kind of weird. I guess it makes sense now that I'm thinking about it. Growing up in Boston, in a time where people didn't know chefs' names and obviously there weren't blogs and Instagram and stuff like that — I've always been in love with food. I've certainly seen how the food community in Boston has grown over the years. I remember my parents, for a birthday, they took me to Biba [by chef Lydia Shire] back in the day, and I was just like 'Holy, what is going on here?' and just so amazed. You know, another time ... both my parents worked, so they weren't the best cooks, but we've always been a family about food. Another time they took me to Chris Schlesinger's East Coast Grill, you know, the original one, really small. And I was doing something that, much like Lydia, like no one had ever done — great food in such a crazy setting, it wasn't fine dining per se —
HS: But taking you to Biba and East Coast Grill ... you had some pretty hip parents.
TM: Well, we also had plenty of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the house, too, so I think I think we covered all [of] the spectrum. Did I just admit to that publicly, by the way?
HS: Chris Schlesinger is one of your culinary heroes, he's one of your mentors. Do you have any other local culinary heroes?
TM: I mean, I never worked for, but Lydia Shire is just huge. I now have the opportunity to cook for her when she comes to the restaurant and I've done a bunch of events with her, charity events or whatever with her. And her energy, her enthusiasm about all things food is just so incredible, so infectious, so contagious. If I have even half of that energy in a few more years, I'd be pretty excited. She's just a joy to be around, and she's so sincere and genuine about it. She's a crazy character like the rest of us. There's lots of stories to go along with her.
HS: But there's a reason she's the reigning godmother of food in this town.
TM: Oh, and her knowledge is unbelievable. And I love her — she's just — has no fear.
HS: Chef Tony Maws divides his time between his home and his other two homes, Craigie on Main and Kirkland Tap and Trotter. And when he's not at either of those, he's usually riding his bicycle from one to the other. Chef, thank you so much.
TM: It's great talking to you, I'll do this anytime.