Neighborhood Kitchens

Neighborhood Kitchens Visits Scampo

By Margarita Martinez

July 4, 2012

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Chef Simon with Margarita in the Scampo kitchen. (Patricia Alvarado/WGBH)

Listen to my conversation about Scampo with Morning Edition host Bob Seay on WGBH 89.7  FM.

BOSTON — Chef Simon Restrepo is a serious guy. My visit with Simon was an education in focus, determination, and precision. Every dish he prepares is executed meticulously. He makes it look easy, but I can tell you from experience that plating the gorgeous mozzarella with king crab, avocado, and homemade salsa appetizer is no easy task. My experiment in putting together a tower of buffalo mozzarella, king crab, avocado, salsa, and watercress with Chef Simon resembled more of a landslide than the well-balanced work of art you witness in the show. I promise to keep practicing!!

I am not surprised that Simon is a perfectionist in the kitchen. It takes a special type of determination and perseverance to start in a restaurant as a dish washer, newly emigrated from Colombia, and work your way up to the position of executive chef in a top-tier restaurant under Lydia Shire's watchful eye. It wasn't an easy path. Simon told me that at one point in his training in Lydia's kitchen, he quit. She was pushing him to a level that was demanding not only of his culinary skills, but of his language skills as well. The day after Simon quit, Lydia went to his house and told him that she believed in him and that he could do it; that he had the talent to become an incredible chef. Simon returned to work and quit again. Lydia returned to his doorstep to again encourage him to come back. According to Simon, this happened three or four times! Lydia obviously recognized that Simon was a rare employee, chef, and person, that Simon does not commit to a job unless he can do his absolute best.

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Chef Simon plating in the kitchen. (Patricia Alvarado/WGBH)
In the kitchen, Simon settles for nothing less than outstanding, as does Lydia. As executive chef, Simon upholds his and Lydia's high level of excellence in Scampo's kitchen. He also collaborates with Lydia on the creation of new menus for Scampo each season. And he has reached the level where he can seamlessly incorporate his own heritage and creative spin on new dishes while still staying within Lydia's expectations for flavor and style. For example, the grilled swordfish stuffed with chorizo and white clam risotto is beautifully prepared, delicious, and one of Simon's creations. The dish is a blend of Italy, New England, and Latin America all on one plate.

One doesn't think that a visit to Scampo at the Liberty Hotel in historic Beacon Hill will lead to chicharrón, or cracklings, on your spaghetti, but Simon and Lydia have been combining these types of ingredients for years and it is a trend that is occurring nationwide. I suppose it should come as no surprise considering Latinos are working in restaurant kitchens throughout the nation in positions ranging from dishwashers to line cooks to executive chefs.


Watch Neighborhood Kitchens online to find out more about Scampo.


About Neighborhood Kitchens

Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.

Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44

About the Author
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.

On the Go

In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!

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Find a Neigbhorhood Kitchen
click on the map to explore

Margarita's Neighborhood Visits

»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Roxbury: Merengue
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer

»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi


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