Interview with Boston Rising Star Chef Patrick Campbell of Café ArtScience

by Caroline Hatchett
April 2015

Caroline Hatchett: How did you first get into the industry?
Patrick Campbell:
My first job was at Boston Chicken, where legends are made. I tried to quit, and had several other fast food/sub shop jobs that I kept trying to quit. I didn’t like smelling like food and not partying with friends. My parents made me go to college. I kept skipping classes to go to where I was cooking. I went to culinary school at Cambridge Culinary Arts and progressively got interested in fine dining. In 2002, as my interest got deeper, the quality of restaurants I worked at was getting better. I had dinner at The French Laundry and decided I wanted to stop being a wimp and work for a real restaurant in the city. After staging around, I ended up working at No. 9 Park. I stayed for eight years, five of them as the chef. I started at the restaurant at a great time. Barbara [Lynch] was a huge presence, she personally taught me about food and how to make pasta. I spent lots of hours with her, and adopted her thoughts on food. Then I got burnt out, being in the same restaurant that wasn’t mine but I was responsible for. I wanted a change. That’s when I started shopping around for my own place, a neighborhood restaurant with an aggressive composed raw bar. In the middle of looking, these guys approached me about this project, so I decided to squash my project and hop onboard.

CH: Who would you say your most influential mentor has been?
Barbara [Lynch], her among other people who worked in her restaurant group. They molded me into the person I am. I was working for Barbara at a time when she was super busy, which afforded me lots of creative freedom. She didn’t have time to constantly check in. We were constantly upholding the standard of the group. They really let me be for a good portion on top of the advice I would get. It was such a great experience to be able to think for myself. In the first three years, I did everything: fish station, then rounds cook, running around the kitchen like an animal, doing everything. Then was a.m. sous chef and eventually I became p.m. sous.

CH: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
I’ve lent a hand to lots of young people in the industry. I can feel my body getting tired. Personally, throughout my years of hiring and being the chef, I’ve nurtured lots of great talent and been lucky enough to work with people who are talented and are doing great things. Five years ago, hiring in restaurants became difficult; the talent pool was getting smaller and smaller. One of the biggest challenges at No. 9 Park was holiday lunch. We opened three to four weeks for five extra shifts a week and we couldn’t afford to hire new staff. I worked all day; it was the most stressful time. That’s when I got an email from a Harvard student who wanted to stage. I ignored it for a week or two, but this kid kept emailing, so I told him to come in and stage. That person was Scott Jones, and he had zero restaurant experience. To see someone so green but with a great attitude adopt anything you wanted to teach him—watching that growth was so amazing. Scottie started at No. 9 in 2009, and when I left in April 2013, he took my job. He killed it and is now CDC at Menton.

CH: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
Lots of challenges. We’ve only been open a short time. We’re still figuring out what works and doesn’t work. I think every restaurant goes through growing pains when they open. That’s difficult. Physically working in the space is difficult. I prefer small kitchens to large ones. To cook lunch and prep for dinner the way we want is a big challenge. Working in the confines of keeping everyone happy is also a challenge. When we opened, I wanted certain dishes that would showcase techniques for cooks to know, and I caught a lot of shit on Yelp for not having enough vegetarian dishes. Trying to figure out a happy medium and staying within the realm of the concept is a challenge.

CH: Where do you see yourself in five years?
The short term plan would be to stabilize this restaurant with staffing and nailing down consistent business. Part of the business plan is to expand and open another Café ArtScience in a different city, I would like to think in two to three years. We’re creating a model that would be wanted and welcomed. The new restaurant would be very different. Wherever we land, the food and drink will have to be specific to that city. Once we look at spaces, we’ll have to do homework with regional food.