Whether behind the line of a critically acclaimed kitchen, holed up in a basement pumping out some of the best nosh in the city, or braving Boston’s pothole-filled roads to bring you ass-kicking bites, the chefs here are fast becoming ones to watch. We infiltrated their kitchens to get a glimpse at how they’re making their mark — and what they’re up to next.
The Hometown Defender
[UPDATE: After the Phoenix went to press, Rodrigues was arrested for assault and battery; he is no longer employed at Clio. See our update for more details.]
It’s noon, and the dining room at Clio is empty, silent, and pristine. Without the usual chatter and squeals of delight as a plate lands in front of an excited guest, even the air seems refined. Doug Rodrigues, the former chef de cuisine and newly crowned executive chef, doesn’t exactly match the vibe.
He peppers conversation with the occasional well-placed swear in his mild South Shore accent, and swirls of darkly shaded tattoos cover his arms. He’s fiercely loyal to his hometown, and he wastes no time letting you know.
“I try to keep Scituate on the map, or at least on the menu,” he says emphatically. “Scituate needs it. I support them because it’s a fishing community, and while a lot of chefs will say they’re ‘sustainable’ and ‘local,’ mostly they’re lying their asses off. With Scituate, you get the real deal.”
Rodrigues grew up eating overcooked pork chops and pasta, but yearned for the fine-dining fare that he watched Julia Child, Martin Yan, and Graham Kerr, the “Galloping Gourmet,” make on television. When he worked with his father, a plasterer, during the summers, he always spent his pay on lobsters from Mullaney’s.
Rodrigues started skateboarding at 10 years old, with dreams of going pro. (Two years ago, he shattered his heel “jumping off of something way too high in Quincy.” He worked the line on crutches.) Growing up in a family of laborers, he says he learned the meaning of work ethic at an early age: since he was soon breaking a skateboard a week and his parents were sick of footing the bill, they made him get a job.
“Cooking was always something in the back of my head that I knew I wanted to do, but I didn’t know where to go to cook,” he says. “Plus, skateboarding always came first. When I was 14, the Atlantica opened, and it was the first restaurant on the South Shore that I knew was fine dining, as opposed to fucking veal cutlets.”
After folding boxes in a local pizza shop and kicking around at a diner, he finally applied as a dishwasher at the Atlantica at 15. They threw him on the line instead. “They thought it was hilarious,” he says. “I was tiny.”
The chef continued to toss their new kitchen charge dare after dare — fry station, grill, the 18-burner sauté station — but failed to overwhelm him. He’s now been a part of Clio’s kitchen for seven years, working his way through the ranks, as he’s done in every kitchen he’s known. His new title doesn’t mean anything will change, though.
“I’ll never stop. It’s never good enough,” he says. “It’s an obsession with climbing the ranks, but it’s the nature of the beast. I still have Ken [Oringer] standing over me all the time, catching what I miss.”
To maintain Clio’s reputation for breathtaking plates, Rodrigues is letting his creative impulses run the gamut — he has a dish on the menu based on a painting in the dining room, and the current beet salad was inspired by a picture of a pile of burning ashes.
“I’m kind of a live wire. I’m not consistent, and people can’t really read me most of the time. As soon as you think I’m some hard-ass prick, I’ll go soft on you,” he says. “If you look at the food, you can tell where I’m at.”
Clio » 370A Comm Ave, Boston :: 617.536.7200 or cliorestaurant.com