Q&A: Chris Schlesinger, East Coast Grill
Twenty-five years as an independent in the restaurant business is quite a feat, but Chris Schlesinger quickly and humbly attributes his longevity to good luck. Oh yeah, and a lot of high-quality food at good prices with hospitable service. “It’s about the fundamentals,” says the owner of East Coast Grill & Raw Bar, which has become an institution in the Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Mass. “We’ve always aspired to be what a restaurant can be in culture and society — a place to relax and have a good time and get treated right.”
There aren’t many restaurants that have a dual focus of barbecue and seafood, but the menu at East Coast is a reflection of his favorite flavors, having grown up near the Virginia seaside. Schlesinger, 55, may have ditched “chef” from his title but he still prowls the bustling hotspot daily, making sure it lives up to its well-earned reputation.
Wright: In what ways has the restaurant industry changed, for good or bad?
Schlesinger: The people are way more professional. The industry has matured. When I got into it, in the mid ‘70s, if you couldn’t make it in college, you went into restaurants. And there were only two culinary schools in the nation. I used to read Vietnamese cookbooks. Now the kids coming around have lived in Vietnam, they speak Vietnamese. They’re more professional. Kids at 16 are thinking they want to be professional chefs. It’s gotten a lot more serious and the quality has improved. ?I don’t think it has changed for the worse at all. Customers are appreciative of good food and they’re discerning.
Click here to read the rest of the Q&A with Schlesinger, which was written by SeaFood Business Associate Editor James Wright and appeared in the magazine’s April issue.