Q&A: Will Gilson of Puritan & Company
Gin Bath South of the Equator (Craigie on Main)
Campfire (Avery Bar)
Given the way Will Gilson crafts thoughtful dishes with produce and herbs at Puritan & Company, it comes as no surprise that he grew up on a farm. Early years spent working stalls at markets for his family farm, Groton’s The Herb Lyceum at Gilson’s, sparked his interest in a culinary career. The chef followed his passion from kitchens in Boston’s North End to Oleana in Cambridge. Opening Puritan & Company in Inman Square in 2012 allowed Gilson to realize his ultimate dream: owning a refined neighborhood restaurant with dishes inspired by his upbringing and the freshest market fare.
Boston’s best dish:
The Fried Chicken at Sarma. I have never had a better piece of fried chicken.
Desert island spice:
If we’re talking a single spice, I think I’d have to say paprika. It’s a great secret weapon in cooking, adding depth and mild amounts of heat. But if we’re talking about spice blends, my favorite is berbere. It’s Ethiopian in origin, and it wakes up all the flavors of a dish.
My cooks hate me because it’s pretty much all ‘80s music. If it was on the soundtrack to a movie in the ‘80s, or sung by Hall & Oates or Huey Lewis, then it’s coming over those speakers.
Favorite food destination:
Chiang Mai, Thailand. My wife and I spent a week there and I could eat there for the rest of my life. The street food is so fresh, clean, and unique. I really can’t imagine a place with more unique flavors.
Travel. I think the best way for a cook or a chef to grow is to experience the foods and flavors of other cultures. You can’t understand acid, spice, herbs, or temperature from a cookbook—you need to taste it and feel it. I have learned more about dim sum from a nine-hour layover in Hong Kong than I did in 10 years of eating it and trying to cook it here.