Interview with Chef Jason Bond of Bondir – Cambridge, MA

February 2012

Antoinette Bruno: When did you decide you wanted to cook professionally?
Jason Bond: After college I took a couple years to decide what I wanted to do. In 1995, I decided I wanted to cook professionally. My goal was always to have my own restaurant, and I’ve been preparing for that goal my entire career. I had been looking at spaces for several years. One day I saw a hand-written for-rent note on a Portuguese restaurant that was closing. It was in pretty rough shape, but had a cute little front room. I lived in that neighborhood, and the rent they were asking was what I could afford.

AB: How has Bondir evolved?
JB: I started with two cooks, and we’d do everything. I wired the lights, painted, repaired things. Downstairs we have a 50-year-old beer cooler, and I poured the 6-inch concrete floor. [When we first started] we did three turns a night; we were very busy. I’d plan every day, cook every day, and by the end of the night, we’d sell 20 of everything. We’d run out of product every night. Now we’re still cooking that late. The first seating is at 5pm, but we never do more than 10 people at one time.

AB: What is the inspiration for dishes?
JB: I’ve always wanted to have a restaurant in this neighborhood. I’ve been thinking about this restaurant for 20 years, but I never wanted to jump into it immediately. My experience over the years has been the Relais & Chateau restaurant aesthetic and seriousness. I carry that with me. We were trying to create a fine-dining restaurant that doesn’t feel like fine dining. For the food, we’re trying to find good ingredients and make them play well off each other.

AB: What steps are you taking to become a sustainable restaurant?
JB: We try to find the best product we can. We’re not a locavore restaurant, but 90 percent of our product is local. That’s just because the best I can get is from five miles away.

AB: What are your favorite off-the-beaten-path restaurants or bars?
JB: I really like the Druid (in Cambridge). It’s an honest, pleasant place. Dark wood, beer, the best Irish bar food. I order the beef stew. It takes half an hour to get because they do it right. I also like Troquet. The wine list there is different than you’ll see anywhere else. The last time we were there we had a 1970 Margaux and a white Burgundy from the early 1990s. It has tons of stuff like that, stuff you won’t see anywhere else. Also, Coppa. [Chef] Jamie [Bissonette] has so many ideas, like a fountain. It’s the kind of place where you can relax.