Interview with Boston Rising Star Carl Dooley of Craigie on Main

by Mary Choi
April 2015

Mary Choi: Where are you from and how did you get your start?
Carl Dooley: Cambridge, Massachusetts. I moved around the city area for work. I attended the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Vermont, worked in London for six months at the Fat Duck, then came back to Boston. I worked for Tony Maws and then moved to Washington, D.C. for about five years to work under Frank Ruta at Palena Restaurant; and then at the Four Seasons Washington, D.C. for Eric Ripert. After that I moved to New York for a year and worked at Battersby. Then my wife and I knew we were going back to Boston.

MC: What was your very first cooking job?
My first cooking job was at a lobster shack in the summer in Maine when I was 16. I really liked the lifestyle and the older guys gave me gin and tonics at the end of the night; I really liked working with my hands. The craft of it really appealed to me. I worked at Formaggio Kitchen in high school and got to work with some amazing ingredients. I would buy cookbooks and skip school to cook at home. When it came time for me to pick a school for college, I knew I couldn’t go to a regular school, so I enrolled at NECI.

MC: Who has been your most influential mentor throughout your career?
Definitely Tony Maws; he’s someone who took me on when I first got out of school. I had a lot of energy and was excited, but I didn’t have the discipline. He taught me how to be a restaurant professional. Coming back to work with him—after a few years away—in a leadership role, has been truly rewarding for me.

MC: How would you describe your food philosophy?
Make delicious food. The reason I love Craigie on Main is because our theme is deliciousness. In this day and age, people don’t want specific themes, they just want something good to eat. I think we get caught up in trying to explain and talk about food. I mean, I just want people to want another plate of something.

MC: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to deal with?
Well, other than the standard chef problems, the biggest challenges are from the management standpoint and to help people grow and work hard. The challenge is to be a good food chef and a good manager, and being responsible. You have to play a lot of roles and ultimately you want to collaborate with all your cooks to run a productive kitchen.

MC: What’s your five year plan?
I like having the freedom and having different directions to go, to work with different people in different places. I got into the industry because of that aspect of moving around and learning new things. So ultimately, I’m excited for what lies ahead, but again, I can’t say for sure what that will be.