Food & dining

Getting Salty

A talk with Adrienne Wright of Boston Urban Hospitality — and ‘Top Chef’

Adrienne Wright
Adrienne Wright

Visit Downtown Crossing’s Boston Chops on Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m. for a slice of TV glamour. Boston Urban Hospitality executive chef Adrienne Wright hosts weekly “Top Chef” viewing parties there, because she’s one of this season’s seven remaining chefs. She serves the same food that she served on each episode, so fans get a true taste of reality TV. When she’s not preparing delicacies for Bravo’s judges, she oversees the menus at two locations of Boston Chops, Deuxave, and dbar.

What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? When I was still in college, in culinary school in Providence, my friend took me to OM in Cambridge for my birthday, and it was a big deal. We started with truffle parmesan popcorn. We were two culinary school kids who were blown away. They just gave it to us! I was so sad when I moved to Boston and it wasn’t there anymore.

What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? I think I’d like to close the disparity between what front of the house, servers, and back of the house, line cooks, make. The disparity is disheartening to the back of the house, and we lose talented people to the front of the house because we haven’t found a way to fix that issue.

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What other restaurants do you visit? My husband and I have our favorites. We keep it casual. Lone Star Taco Bar is a big place we end up at, and Article 24, because we live in Lower Allston. It has great, solid bar food. And if we’re headed out to a nicer meal, or if people are asking me for my recommendations, I’m always talking up Bar Mezzana and SRV. I love Bar Mezzana’s crudo tasting. It’s so affordable. I even send people there just as their first stop on their date night. Have a crudo tasting and a glass of bubbles. I took my own advice, and two weeks later found out I was pregnant. I got it off my to-do list. Otherwise, it would be a long nine months.

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What’s your earliest food memory that made you think: I want to work in restaurants? I grew up on a 60-acre farm in Goshen, Connecticut. We had heirloom apple trees in our orchard, for years and years. Every year, I remember going to battle with those apple trees: “Every apple you make, I will do something fun with it!” We ended up with apple bread and apple cake in the freezer because I was literally producing so much off of these apples. I was about 12 or 13. About that same time frame, Better Homes and Gardens had a readers’ recipe contest, and I was actually building recipes to submit to those contests at the same age.

What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? Oh, man. When we were traveling in Italy, chef Chris [Coombs] and I were in this small coastal town, and we thought anywhere we’d go for seafood would be awesome. We stopped in to one that was staffed by this grandmotherly Italian woman. They were not very busy, and the seafood was really not good. In my broken Italian, I was trying to explain to this very offended owner why I couldn’t eat this seafood, which I was pretty sure was bad. I kept saying I wasn’t feeling well; I’d been traveling. We had to run out of that restaurant! She almost wouldn’t let us out. We played sick and tried to get out of there.

How could Boston become a better food city? Something is going to have to give with the rents restaurant spaces are paying right now. The rental market has been so strong for the past five or six years. It’s hard to find a location you can really take a risk with to open something very small or a concept that will expand Boston’s horizons. We’re in a cycle of bigger spaces and high rent, which means you need a grand-slam concept and a big draw. While I love that and it’s how you make money, I don’t think it’s how Boston becomes a better food city.

Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Adamant about their favorites. They are fiercely loyal to their neighborhood and place and style. And very interactive. So much of my Instagram content is interaction with Boston natives coming to the restaurants. They want to be involved in the chef’s life.

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What’s the most overdone trend right now? I’m over small plates! I really just like to sit down to my own plate of food that’s a reasonable size, that I can eat from start to finish. I’m tired of super-small, overly salted, overly spiced plates that you aren’t meant to eat more than six bites of.

What are you reading? I’m in a cycle where I am re-reading things. My coffee table has the “SPQR” cookbook on it, “Classico e Moderno” by Michael White, and “Essential Cuisine” by Michael Bras.

How’s your commute? Up until I got pregnant, I was an adamant biker to and from work, but the past few months have put a slowdown on that ambition. So mostly now my husband picks me up from work. It’s very luxurious! The pregnant life has its perks.

What’s the one food you never want to eat again? Chicken feet. I’ve tried them, and I don’t feel the need to try them again.

What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? I think we have significant holes in our ethnic cuisines, even as basic as gyros. Falafel Palace went out of business, and I’m still mourning their loss.

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What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? As a young, very poor line cook in Boston, I saved my money and went to L’Espalier. The elegance of eating a level above the sidewalk, which we never get anywhere else, and their level of service, and their beautiful plates. That was my first “Wow, this is fine dining” [moment]. I’m so sad to have it gone.

‘We’re in a cycle of bigger spaces and high rent, which means you need a grand-slam concept. While I love that and it’s how you make money, I don’t think it’s how Boston becomes a better food city.’

Who was your most memorable customer? We have a regular named Mike Thurk. He’s such a fan that he comes in for family meal sometimes. Even if he comes at 5 p.m., he’ll ask, “What did you have for family meal, and do you have any left over?” His wife comes in with him sometimes. You’ll find him sipping scotch and eating family meal multiple times a week.

If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? Sichuan fish stew from Gourmet Dumpling House. When we travel for too long and are away from Boston, within two days, we’re eating at Gourmet Dumpling House.

Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.