Q&A: Michael Serpa of Select Oyster Bar


Born into a multi-generational family of Cuban chefs, Michael Serpa grew up in Pennsylvania but spent summers working the kitchen at his father’s Miami restaurant. After withdrawing from Penn State at the last minute, the budding chef decided to pursue a culinary degree instead. A first gig at Todd English’s NYC-based Olives would later bring Serpa to Boston to work at the restaurant’s Charlestown outpost. When he took over the kitchen at Neptune Oyster in 2008, the North End establishment quickly became a local seafood icon. In 2015 Serpa opened his own restaurant in Back Bay, Select Oyster Bar, where he continues to highlight the best of local seafood—this time with a distinctively Mediterranean touch.

Boston’s best dish:

Rabbit Strozzapreti with olives and pecorino from Sportello.

Desert island spice:

I use a lot of espelette pepper.

Kitchen playlist:

At home: Lake Street Drive, Anderson Paak, Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, Dylan. At work: Colombian music.

Favorite food destination:

Paris. Number two is Montreal.

Cooking inspiration:

Cooking is my family trade. My grandfather, dad, and two uncles came up as chefs, and I followed the same path. My brother is also a chef. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I love and especially lucky to have figured that out at a young age. I don’t consider my food to be “inspiring” or artful, but rather just well-crafted . . . in the same way as someone who builds a nice piece of furniture or sews a fine piece of clothing. When you see something that’s crafted well, the quality is evident and you can tell whoever made it really understands what they are doing. I am motivated and inspired to make sure we always prepare our food with pride and quality that I think guests can see and taste when they eat it.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Sign up for our weekly newsletters for curated guides, can't-miss dishes, restaurant recommendations, and more.

Enter Email