2014 Washington, D.C. Area Rising Star Chef Ian Boden of The Shack

2014 Washington, D.C. Area Rising Star Chef Ian Boden of The Shack
December 2014

At the ripe old age of 13, Ian Boden struck out on his culinary journey, picking up a job with Master French Chef Marc Fusilier in Manassas, Virginia. This early experience in the industry sealed his fate as a chef. After high school, Boden decided to further his cooking education by heading north and attending the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. After graduating, he made his way to New York City to hone his skills at Payard Patisserie and Bistro, Judson Grill, and Home Restaurant.

Returning to his home state, Boden opened his first restaurant, The Staunton Grocery in 2007. His contemporary Virginian cuisine received regional and national recognition from publications including Southern Living, The New York Times, and The Washingtonian, as well as receiving the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.

Boden closed The Grocery in December 2011, accepting the executive chef position at Glass Haus Kitchen in Charlottesville in early 2012. He continued to earn acclaim during his tenure there, including a James Beard nomination for the “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic.” In 2013, Boden returned to Staunton to open his community spirited, causal, 26-seat restaurant, The Shack, where he cooks with rip-roaring originality. Boden’s ambitious tasting menu has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Esquire, and Garden & Gun.

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Interview with DC Rising Star Chef Ian Boden of The Shack

Meha Desai: Why did you start cooking professionally?
Ian Boden:
I started cooking when I was 13. It just kind of happened. I didn’t grow up with food. When I was really young, I used to play sports. Then I got into drugs and music and went that away. And then I got into food. My parents asked a local chef if their son could hang out in the kitchen, and I did that for a little while and he started showing me stuff. Things just evolved from there. I moved to New York City when I was 18. I never had conversations about food when I was working there. Everybody telling me I couldn’t do stuff is what kept me in the industry. I was a fat kid and I still have that fat kid mentality. This is proof that I want what I want. I don’t take no for an answer. Either you’re going to help me or get the fuck out of my way.

MD: What are you most proud of?
My first restaurant, Staunton Grocery. I’m really proud of what I did there, but now when I think about it, it was everything I didn’t like. I wanted to open a fine-dining place. But I was 26, so it was pretentious as fuck. I walked away clean, but I lost money the whole time. If you’re going to do something, just grab your ball sac and do it. 

MD: Who's your mentor?
Marc Fusilier was my biggest mentor. I apprenticed with him for four years in high school, and in junior year I did a work-study program, so I could cook more. Senior year, I did night school so I could cook and it was because of Marc. Bill Telepan was a huge influence. He opened my eyes to the benefits of the green market, local food, and farmers—something I did not think about till I met Bill.

MD: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
In Staunton? There is none! So I read a lot. I’m trying to tie in more and more to my surroundings and the traditions here. I’ve been studying Appalachian food history and old cookbooks. The trends are not so important. I contradict myself a bit when you look at my plates. Social media is a necessary evil, especially when you’re in an area like this. I go to events, that’s a good way to stay in contact. Team building is really important. And taking ownership is a part of it.

MD: Hardest thing had to do in your career?
 Closing Staunton Grocery. It was open for almost 5 years.

MD: What are you most proud of?
: I’m proud that I get to wake up every morning and do what I love to do. 

MD: What's your five year plan?
The dream is to open a second restaurant in Staunton. First I thought it would be stupid to open two in such a small town. But I look at Joe Beef and the other guys who’ve done it and been successful, like Vivian Howard. Take our Wednesday through Thursday a la carte menu—more fast and casual—and move that to a new location and just do the prix fixe.