Chef Richard and Chef Katie

In The Kitchen With… Carolyn Johnson of 80 Thoreau

In In the Kitchen with..., Restaurant on January 23, 2013 at 8:39 pm
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Chef Carolyn Johnson

It’s always most interesting to hear the paths that people to take to get to the kitchen. Some know from the start and head right to Culinary School or to gain experience in a kitchen, others simply fall into it either through family or just naturally, and yet others start out on a very different path before winding up on the line. Carolyn Johnson belongs to the latter of the three, graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Economics before eventually discovering her passion for food and the kitchen. “I don’t like to make fussy food” she says as she gracefully moves around the open kitchen, “no tweezers in my kitchen” she jokes, “My style is a bit more rustic”.

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Prepping the Lamb Belly

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Sauteed Spinach and Butter Beans waiting to be plated

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Kitchen Labels

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The Skinny Beet made the prep list!

Carolyn built an impressive background before taking on the Executive Chef position at 80 Thoreau, working at such famous spots as Icarus (formerly located in the South End) and Arrows in Ogunquit, ME before spending seven years at Rialto. “I never got bored because it just seemed as soon as I felt I had gotten the hang of something, there was something new to learn” she says of her lengthy stay at Jody Adams’ famed Harvard Square restaurant. Now she runs the show, and what most impressed us was the versatility and ease in which she prepares her dishes. Forget nose-to-tail, Chef Johnson takes it further than anyone we’ve encountered, literally using every component of produce, seafood and the like in every way possible. 

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Almost done..

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80 Thoreau Dining Room

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Grilled Lamb

For our visit, Carolyn showed us how to prepare the Grilled Lamb dish that is currently on the ever-changing Dinner Menu. In this dish, a stuffed lamb belly roulade and a marinated Lamb Top Round are the star, balanced by sautéed spinach and butter beans that rest on a walnut-fig puree. The dish is then topped off with a dusting of toasted walnuts. The natural gaminess that lamb has is balanced by the delicate fig and walnut puree while the spinach and bean combo round out the dish, making it a satisfying contrast to a snowy afternoon. Carolyn sat and chatted with us while we heartily dug in. It’s obvious she’s passionate about her work at 80 Thoreau as she talks about her regular clients as she would talk about close friends.She is humble and clear, Chef Johnson has a vision and we were right there with her. We left 80 Thoreau with our belly’s full of lamb belly and a strong desire to return.

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  1. You guys are so damn busy!! Nice work. I love anyone who label their mise en place!

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