Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Simple Interview

We are really excited about our new series of interviews with chefs, restaurant owners and managers, and prominent foodies all over Boston. What we do is take the full flavor of a place and reduce it. So, you get the essence of what it's all about. Five questions, like five ingredients. We are calling it The Simple Interview.

Our very first interview is with Matthew Lishansky, Director of Operations at the wildly popular Upstairs On The Square. We reviewed this restaurant last year and are very pleased to kick off the series with a Harvard Square landmark. It's a gilded, classic place of fun, great food, and meeting friends.

Matthew Lishansky

What words would you use to describe the style of your restaurant?

UpStairs on the Square is a platform from which hospitality is liberally dispensed. We are a kitchen-centric operation that strives to provide guests with smart food and tailored service without the pretense of typical fine dining.

What uniquely qualifies you to prepare and direct the cuisine at your restaurant?

I’ve washed a lot of dishes. This is probably the most underestimated skill any restaurant worker can possess in my opinion. Until you have attempted every function in the restaurant, one cannot expect to have a comprehension of what it takes to make the trains run on time as it were. I started as a server in this restaurant, moved into management, and currently round out the management team as Director of Operations.

Do you like to cook at home and, if so, what do you make?

At this point in my life, I am fortunate enough to live alone. This consequently means that I do not cook at home solely because my definition of cooking involves breaking bread with others. When I do cook, however, I tend to venture into the Mediterranean preparations. I like simple food. My favorite breakfast is August tomatoes with olive oil and sea salt slightly roasted and served on top of freshly made bread.

How has your restaurant responded to the “new economy”?

For as much as I don’t like to sound like a motivational speaker, we have been making a concerted effort to maintain the power of positive realization- a sort of Field of Dreams mentality if you will. This restaurant has lasted through several recessions to its credit, and it is primarily due to the fact that we are so lucky to have made such wonderful friendships with our guests and purveyors. We are also fortunate to have an incredibly creative staff that enjoys planning and executing all of our outstanding events. From our dinner dance series with the Winiker orchestra to our monthly vegan dinners and plethora of wine events, there is always something to do here which diners welcome as an alternative to sitting around and watching stocks fall.

Tell us something that most people would be surprised to find out about you.

I used to be part of an improv comedy troupe that performed all around the East coast. Believe me, I skill use my skills on a regular basis. I also have very little actual experience in the restaurant world (I worked at an Italian restaurant in my hometown for about a month when I was a senior in high school). I used to work as a corporate recruiter for a technology firm and for L’Oreal Spain.

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