NTF: How did you first get started in the restaurant business?
TODD: Well actually it was by accident. When I was 15 or 16 years old I did a friend a favor
by filling in as the dishwasher in a restaurant. It was then, after working my way up to a cook, that
I started to think about a career in foodservice.
NTF: What type of schooling did you receive?
TODD: I studied and lived cooking at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
It provided me with the discipline I needed. Then after graduating with honors in 1982, I began
honing my craft with apprenticeships in fine restaurants in New York, France and Italy.
NTF: What region do you feel had the most influence on your cooking style?
TODD: Of all the places I've studied, Italy was where I really found myself. I loved the
rustic sensibility in how they prepared their food, particularly in the Piedmont Region. This area's
rich resources and agriculture, as well as its French, Arabic and Italian influences, makes the
cooking very interesting.
NTF: What sort of dishes are prepared in the Piedmont Region of Italy?
TODD: First of all, when it comes to food, the Italians believe that nothing should be wasted
or overlooked. As for what kind of dishes they like to prepare, turkey is a popular choice. With
its interesting components from white breast meat to dark leg meat, it adapted extremely well to what
the Italians love to cook.
NTF: What is the Italians' perception of turkey?
TODD: You probably think Italians like meals with heavy meats and sauces, but they actually
prefer light meats. They see turkey as a healthy, light white meat that lends itself excellently to
their style of cooking, and they use it in many different ways. Also, Europeans do not celebrate
Thanksgiving so they perceive turkey as an all-year round option.
NTF: How did you take what you learned in Italy and incorporate it in your menus when you returned to the states?
TODD: I think that studying in Italy really opened my eyes to many different ways of preparing
items such as turkey. I learned that turkey does have a place on the menu because it has such great
versatility. Americans should view turkey as the Europeans do: as another alternative. One that is
low in fat and can be mixed with a wide variety of items.
NTF: What are some characteristics that differentiate turkey from other proteins?
TODD: Turkey, unlike chicken, has very elegant characteristics. It has more of a cache than chicken.
Turkey is a delicacy, so it should be presented in such a way.
NTF: How do you currently menu turkey in your Charlestown, MA restaurant Olives?
TODD: Like I said, turkey is so versatile and is light, yet rich in flavor, so I use it in a
number of recipes. Some of my favorites include turkey chops, turkey osso bucco, turkey scaloppini
and turkey comfit.
NTF: So would you say there are multiple uses for the different turkey parts?
TODD: Definitely. For example, we'll make chops out of the breast meat, something else from
the thighs and we'll set aside and save the wings until we have enough to serve one night. We'll
take the bones out of the wings and then stuff them with a fruit stuffing or fois de gras and then
roast them and serve as an appetizer or even an entree.
NTF: What is the price point of turkey?
TODD: It's very inexpensive. It works great because you can do a lot of things with it. From a foodservice
stand point, I think you are crazy not to use turkey.
NTF: Is turkey a popular item on your menu?
TODD: Yes. In fact our turkey chops have developed quite a cult following. My customers
actually yell at me when I take it off the menu.
NTF: Seeing that turkey works so well on your menu, are there any tips you can offer other
chefs who want to menu turkey?
TODD: It is important that you work with the breast and thighs separately because they are
two very different products. The breast can be dry if not handled properly, while the thighs are
easier to work with because there is more fat. Also I believe that cooking the bird on the bone helps
preserve the moistness and the flavor of the meat. As with any meat, some education and skills are
needed when handling turkey.