A Chat with Steve Hamilton, Chef de Cuisine at Royal Sonesta, Boston

Chef Hamilton tells The Daily Meal about his philosophy of buying local produce
Steve Hamilton

Brian Samuels

Chef Steve Hamilton.

Every chef’s story is different and Steve Hamilton says that he got into cooking because he watched a TV series called Great Chefs of the World. He had a friend who helped him get a job as a dishwasher at a diner that was next door to Steve’s home. That was all it took. He says he just “fell in love with the whole business.”

He worked his way up from dishwasher to prep cook, line cook, and then went to culinary school because he knew that was what he wanted to do. He went to the University of New Hampshire in Culinary Arts and Management. He then got a job at the Inn at Exeter and during his five years there he worked his way up from pastry to sous to executive chef.

He explained to The Daily Meal that he, “opened a restaurant in New Hampshire for a couple of years, and then I received a phone call to come talk to the team here at the Sonesta Boston. I had never worked for a hotel, I hadn’t thought about it, but I came down here and it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, to tell you the truth. I’ve been here 8 years, almost 9, and it has been an experience and a half. I have learned a lot, met a lot of amazing people, worked with a great team, and every day I’m still learning.

“I started here as a sous chef then moved into banquet and ran that for a few years, and that was a whole different experience. And then our executive chef Brian Dandro asked me to be ArtBar’s chef de cuisine, and I jumped on it as I wanted to be part of that. We’ve been working hard, really pushing the food, pushing the “food as art” concept, and it’s working. People seem to be noticing and business is great with both new and repeat visitors. There’s a lot of personal attention here, it’s all about the experience at ArtBar, and we want people to feel like they are coming into our home and leave happy.”

The Daily Meal: Do you source your food locally?
Chef Steve Hamilton:
We try to get as much as we can locally. Red Fire Farms, LookOut Farms, MetroPedalPower — three of my favorite suppliers for local produce. Our seafood is local, our chicken is from Pennsylvania (Bell & Evans, humanely raised); our Niman Ranch sirloins are humanely raised, so as much as possible we try to make good decisions about where our food is coming from, and keep it local and seasonal.

Why is that important?
You are giving back to the communities, guests expect it, they know they are paying for it, the quality is better, it’s a great movement.  [W]e try to make good decisions about where our food is coming from, and keep it local and seasonal.

If in a jam, call local?
Yes, definitely. Chelsea Market is right down the street, we can go down there. Haymarket in Boston is right over the bridge.

Do you do much that is organic?
We try, but it’s hard and it is expensive. We focus on product and pricing — we need it to be affordable for people coming, so we rely on local farms and local product. 

Do you get to see how a client reacts to a meal you’ve prepared yourself?
Yes, I do all the time.  I love being in the restaurant and talking with guests, seeing how they like a dish, checking in with them. It makes me happy to see people enjoying my food.  It really does. There’s a lot of passion, thought, love, and hard work that we put into each dish.

What is your vision for the future for the restaurant?
We want to continue to elevate it and make every experience the best it can possibly be. I sit down with chef Brian Dandro and we are always looking at the menu, how do we show off our local product, how do we make a dish memorable. It’s what we work on every day. We serve three meals, 365 days a year — we are focused.

More individualized functions, extending the season of our outdoor patio — there’s so much we want to do.

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