A GENERAL, A SEA CAPTAIN, A PILGRIM
Gilson's vision is focused, specific, and rooted in where he comes from. His grandfather taught his father the family genealogy; his father will teach him, and "maybe eventually" Gilson will have someone to teach it to. His status as a 13th-generation New Englander has been well noted, but he cautions against any visions of buckle hats or muskets at the new place. "It's about preserving our heritage," he says of Puritan & Co. "It's an idea of what we are and what our values are."
Gilson recalls his mother boiling tortellini from a bag, then sautéing them in olive oil and sage, one of his favorite childhood meals. He talks of her forever burning his grilled cheeses, the sound of the butter knife scraping char off bread and the blackened flecks on his fingertips. He hated it then, but time shifts tastes, and Gilson has been experimenting with onion ash. "Selfishly," he says, a word he repeats often, to suggest both apology and awareness, Puritan & Co. is about "all the stuff from here." One hears an only child's expectation of attention and approval when he says, "I'm trying to prove to everyone that I am good at what I do."
He talks of the "ego cocktail" — humility and pride — necessary to stay balanced. "Think of the attributes of a general or a sea captain," he says. "They're leading people into battle." Likewise, he says, a chef.
There are a few cars parked in the Lyceum driveway. Is the pick-up his? "Nope. I drive this," he says, tapping on the trunk of the BMW. He quickly goes on to describe the beat-up Tacoma he used to drive. He says he hears a lot from people about the magic of the farm. "To me it's just a place. I look around and think, this needs cleaning, this needs organizing." It's a practiced humility: Oh, it's just a house. One might even suggest that it's something in the Yankee genes, a culture that poses loath to flaunt success.
"I don't come from money," he says. "We just came on a small boat a long time ago."
PURITAN & CO. | 1166 CAMBRIDGE ST, CAMBRIDGE :: 617.615.6195 :: PURITANCAMBRIDGE.COM :: SLATED TO OPEN IN LATE OCTOBER