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CHEF WILL GILSON Puritan & Co - Boston, MA
CHEF WILL GILSON Puritan & Co - Boston, MA
Puritan & Company’s Chef/Owner Will Gilson grew up on a New England farm and has taken his background and years of culinary expertise to incorporate it into the award-winning food he serves to his guests today. His childhood on the farm has informed every decision he makes as a chef and business owner. “My conviction runs deep when it comes to working with small farms and farmers,” says Gilson. “I know how hard the work is and how much sweeter the reward is, in the outcome.”
“Knowing where your food is coming from and that people were thoughtful about what to plant and when, is extremely important. I work hard to make opportunities to collaborate with farmers. It means a lot to me and that relationship is what my kitchen is all about. I consciously created a restaurant that is about New England cuisine—that means locally sourced food in season. It’s what me and the team are all about and what we want our guests to experience.”
Gilson began his career at age 15, when he apprenticed with Chef Charles Draghi at Marcuccio’s in the North End. He completed his formal culinary arts training at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, where his expert wine knowledge won him the 2004 R.C. Knopf Student Achievement Scholarship, which funded a three-month tour of wineries in Napa Valley, Venice and Paris. Chef Gilson honed his culinary skills at Oleana in Inman Square, Silks at the Stonehedge Inn outside of Lowell, and at the restaurant of London’s most exclusive hotel, The Lanesborough.
Gilson made his name in the Boston area in 2007, when he opened the Garden at the Cellar, a mid-priced restaurant that quickly built up a large following in Cambridge. He left in 2011, as a leader on the forefront of the pop-up restaurant movement in Boston, to introduce a series of successful restaurant ventures, including Eat @ Adrian’s located on the Cape during the summer of 2011.
However, it was at the Herb Lyceum at his family farm in Groton, Mass. Where farm to table cooking truly became second nature for the burgeoning chef. Gilson was only 17 years old when he began cooking there, and the experience set the foundation for his appreciation for farm fresh produce and the merit of seasonal cooking.
“When you have a relationship with a real person and you’ve been to their fields and witness them caring for what they are growing, being patient and waiting for peak ripeness—you just can’t go with sub-par, faceless produce coming from who knows where – we’re not doing it. It’s not what I want for me, my family, and the guests who trust me to not only do my best to make the food taste really good, but to choose wholesome ingredients.”
Gilson’s time at the Herb Lyceum has molded the direction of Puritan & Company, where guests will find touches of his familial hospitality and their passion for herbs sprinkled throughout their experience. It is here that Gilson has realized his dream of owning a refined yet rustic neighborhood restaurant starring the farmer’s market fare he grew up with as a local farmer’s son. Gilson’s vision has seen early success, as within three months of opening his doors he received two 2013 James Beard Award nominations: Best New Restaurant and Rising Star Chef of the Year. Puritan & Co. was also named one of Bon Appetit’s “50 Best New Restaurants” of 2013. Locally, the restaurant has won numerous awards over the past five years and remains one of the best and most prestigious restaurants in the city. Will Gilson has appeared on the “Today Show” a number of times, Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” and on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” as a culinary judge during the Boston season.
“It can be hard to stay devoted to local foods when we are open for business 12 months a year and there is really only a 6-month growing season. That’s when the traditional rituals and age-old ways of preserving things at the height of their season comes to play so we can have variety year long. That means jams, jellies, dried fruits and vegetables, sauces, and juices. We freeze a lot of things, too,” says Gilson.
“When it comes to cranberries, they are the New England ambassador at the Thanksgiving table. The whole nation looks to New England during Thanksgiving—this is where it all started. I think we should think of cranberries during Thanksgiving, but I love them all year round. I do my best to be a New England chef, but I also like and follow other cuisines. I love learning about global flavors. We don’t live in the space of just sweet and salty anymore. Cranberries are a traditional ingredient that have been around a long time but really play an important part in a more modern culinary profile. The fusing of sweet and sour meeting salty and hot. You can play off the nostalgia and that is relevant and it works, but cranberries health benefits and sour flavors are very contemporary.”
In his spare time, Gilson can be found spending time with his wife, Molly, and their dog, Indy, as well as tending to his labor of love for making charcuterie and spending time with his family on the Groton farm.