Chef Rebecca Newell
Conversation with Rosalyn Winspeare
Images by Russ Mezikofsky
A Conversation with Chef Rebecca Newell:
Picture this… I walked into The Beehive for my interview with Chef Newell, and to my surprise, none other than my childhood idol, the iconic, Carole King is at the piano... For those of you who are too young to remember, Carole is a song writing genius from the 70’s, whose lyrics will be forever embeded in America’s pop-culture. Just think... “Winter, spring, summer or fall,
all you got to do is call and I’ll be there, yes I will, you've Got a Friend.” Remember... "You make me feel like A Natural Woman” sung by Aretha Franklin? As you can imagine, it was difficult remaining focused when you’re being serenaded by your teenage idol. But, though somewhat star-struck, I began the interview.

There are lots of competition in this area, a large number of restaurants in a very confined space. Is there collaboration among the chefs in the South End.
Yes there is actually a group called the “Chefs Collaborative” which we are a member of and it is all about utilizing local and fresh ingredients, so there is collaboration to that degree, I like to keep the food at the Beehive unique so that when people come here they experience my cuisine, my interpretation of dishes so…

Farm-to-table is a widely used phrase these days. Do you feature farm-to-table cooking?
Absolutely, yes, we do. From the farm-to-table stand point, we use obviously local ingredients whenever possible. This is New England, so sometimes it can get difficult in December to get say local arugula, so at that point you can’t, so we do whenever it is possible, whenever price permits it as well. As for the seafood, we use a lot of sustainable seafood because, we don’t like to abuse the ocean. We use farm raised oysters obviously. All of our meat, our produce and fish, we really check the background to make sure that when you come to the Beehive you are going to get the best cut possible. We use grass fed beef and our fish, a lot of it is local, we pride ourselves by using products that are from New England.

Are there any particular local farms that you frequent?
We use Ward’s Farm in Sharon, I have known Jim Ward for ten years he and his family have this amazing farm in Sharon, you should try and get out there. It is really cool. It is open to the public and they have a huge farm, juice bar and you can get sandwiches. Lots of prepared food to go and he always has a corn maze every year for the kids which to me sounds terrifying but I guess can be fun if you are a kid.

How often do you change the menu, is it influenced by the seasons and customers?
We make changes to the menu at least once a week. It is influenced by customers, we want to keep the menu evolving for our regulars so that the dishes aren’t always the same and they have something fresh to try each time that they come. It also has to do with seasonality and or whether or not a dish is moving, if it isn’t popular then we will take it off the menu.

Food shows and celebrity chefs are all the craze... How was your food show experience and would you do it again?
I was on Chopped and I won. I am not going to be part of any other shows ever again. It was a wonderful experience, a life experience and I was glad that I did it and it’s over, checked and moving on.

I’m vegan and my experience eating out is often difficult and discouraging. I have read in your bio that you like to cater to guests and their special dietary needs. How difficult is it to achieve your goal of satisfying each customer?
I don’t find it to be difficult at all, I want everyone to have a nice experience here and if you have a dietary restriction or a reason for not eating dairy because of one belief or the other, or fish. I am happy to make something special and I do frequently. It’s very easy to do something special, it’s no big deal. Just find out what people want and put it together. I don’t find it challenging because I have been doing it for about 10 years so it’s fine. I became a sous chef which is an under chef when I was 24, so at that point when you are managing a kitchen and someone comes in and request something different you need to be able to improvise. You just need to find out if they want: starch, obviously you can have pasta but a gluten free person couldn’t. I could do a stir fry for them with rice or quinoa. There are lots of different options. We have a ton of vegan options on the menu.

Is there money in catering to vegans?
I’m not sure, I have never looked into that side of the business. One of my favorite restaurant in Cambridge is vegan and I love it and I’m not vegan. I love Red Lentil in Watertown and maybe they have targeted a market there. But I think that to have a few items on the menu that are vegan or gluten free maybe people would tend to come here instead of to going to a place that does not. We have salad but we also have a hummus plate that has vegan options on it and then we have a Moroccan Tagine that we can make vegan with lots of vegetables.

Do you eat out often?
I like to go out to eat and try to see what other people are doing, that is part of what I do. Just like you would read someone else’s material and say oh they shouldn’t have written that. It's good to get ideas and see what works and doesn’t.

What are your favotie hotspots in Boston?
Let me think, I love Uchi on Washington Street, you would really like that, especially if you are new to this area, he does lots of sushi that you could have and he is brilliant. That is one of my favorite restaurants. I also love Chinatown a lot, my husband and I love to go there. I know where I went recently, I ate at a restaurant called Tosca in Hingham, it was delicious and I had a really good time. I ate at Mistral a few weeks ago and it was fabulous. I like to go everywhere and it doesn’t have to be a million dollars, I love going to Chinatown and getting some dumplings with my husband and that is fun too.

I'm sure you know that your neighbor Sibling Rivalry shut its doors last month. How do you stay fresh, new, relevant and keep the doors open in this tough climate?
Yes, that was a shame because I loved that restaurant, it was so good and the bar was beautiful there. I think a lot of people come here for what we call the Beehive experience, not only for the food but the front of the house, the music, our wait staff, they provide first rate service, so people come not only for the food but for the cocktail list, the wine, a lot of the cocktails you can’t get them anywhere else. We are not reinventing the wheel we are just making sure everything is fresh and right every single time.

Tell me about the ambiance here at the Beehive, why would I come to the Beehive?
There are 4 reasons that we like to pinpoint and target here, the performance, the art, all of the art that we have here is for sale and a lot of it is done by local artist, so that is really neat. The food and the bar, that is why I think we are unparalleled, we have 4 really good reasons to come and eat here. You can enjoy free live shows and a lot of our musicians are world class musicians. Carol King is here, but she is here for a fund raiser for Ed Markey, the democratic hopeful for the senate race.

I really, really, really love the art work here at the Beehive. Is it for sale?
Yes, all of the art on the walls are for sale, there is usually one right there but I’m wondering if they took it down. They change if every four months. We do an opening and people come to view the art. We have had some pieces that I thought were stunning. One of my favorite was over there but isn’t there anymore.

Anything else that you want the readers to know about the Beehive?
The Beehive is a unique experience, you can come here for the performance, the art, the cuisine, which I hope you come for the cuisine. Everything we get in we get in fresh every single day so every single time you come here, our meats are specially cut for us and packaged for us, so the cut is exactly the same every single time. It is great for people coming in from out of town because they may not have a venue like this where they are from. We have such a beautiful dining room, they call it an eclectic Bohemian design. You have to check out the bathroom before you leave, it’s very cool. Everybody is always saying oh it’s so beautiful…

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