Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alive and Cooking

Over his long career as a celebrity chef, Todd Hall has been associated with numerous high-end restaurants. His newest, Temazcal Tequila Cantina, opened in Boston’s Seaport District this spring to overflow crowds. A two-time James Beard Foundation honoree, Hall moved here in 2009 to help launch Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grille chain, another homegrown hit.

More surprising than any success Hall has achieved, though, is the fact that he’s still alive and cooking. A series of personal tragedies and self-destructive choices threatened to end Hall’s career years ago. In 1992, the youngest of his four children drowned in the family’s backyard swimming pool. Three years later, a parking-lot shooting — the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad — nearly killed Hall.

Drug-free for a decade now, Hall, who mastered Mexican cuisine while working in upscale Southwest kitchens, has designed Temazcal to reflect his formidable culinary ambitions — and flair for the unusual. In this cantina, menu items include lobster guacamole, roast suckling pig, goat basted in grapefruit and molasses, and nearly 300 brands of tequila, some rare. The restaurant overlooks Boston Harbor, seating 126 diners inside and another 40 on its waterside patio. Hall runs a kitchen staff of 12 and boasts of having one of the first restaurants to develop its own full-menu iPad app, allowing diners to browse pictures and recipes of what they might consider ordering.

Boston developer Jon Cronin, who hired Hall as a consulting chef on Remy’s sports bars, says he was fully aware of Hall’s checkered past before bringing him in as a partner in the opening of Temazcal. Cronin even read an unpublished memoir Hall wrote, in all its sordid detail, before going into business with him.

Working with Hall carried significant risks, but Cronin admired how Hall had pulled his life and career back together. “Everything Todd’s gone through and where he’s gotten to now is such an achievement,’’ he said. “Look, I’ve worked with several local organizations that treat addiction. If he falls back in six months, so be it.’’

But Hall is also “the hardest worker I know,’’ Cronin added, and his take on Mexican cuisine is an attractive addition to Boston’s restaurant scene. “To me, Todd’s a winner,’’ he said. “His is a fantastic story.’’

In many ways it is also a disturbing one, if ultimately uplifting.

Read the rest of Chef Hall's story here.

No comments: