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Ask a Chef: Loyal Nine's Marc Sheehan

Hilary Deutsch

April 05, 2016

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Loyal Nine may have been inspired by a clandestine group of American colonists, but the buzz around this restaurant has risen far above a hush. Thanks to the talents of Menton and Bondir alum (and 2016 JBFA Rising Star semifinalist) Marc Sheehan, Loyal Nine was one of Boston’s best-received restaurants last year. A lucky group of guests will be able to sample Sheehan’s culinary prowess as he joins us at the Beard House for a veritable East Coast feast. In anticipation of the event, we spoke to Sheehan about his quest to cook the perfect roast chicken, New England's culinary history, and his unadulterated love for the Clam Box.

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What is your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event?

Our dinner is taking place a little more than a week after Loyal Nine's first anniversary, so we want to showcase what we've done in our first year—a greatest hits, if you will. The style of food at Loyal Nine is inspired by early New England foodways, recipes, and ingredients with a particular emphasis on our coast. We're calling the event East Coast Revival because we want to reinvigorate many forgotten culinary traditions from our region and are looking to provide Beard House guests with a sense of what it's been like to dine at our restaurant over the last year.

What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why? 

It's very hard to pick one; it's like choosing your favorite child! I've always been very happy with our roast chicken dish and it's been on the Loyal Nine menu since opening. We wanted to roast birds on the bone to order, as well as serve them with classic but somewhat archaic accompaniments. Creamed celery and oysters were two compliments to roast poultry that I found often while doing research for the menu. The dish has been slightly tweaked over the last year, but ultimately, the goal has always been a simple, vibrant, and flavorful roast chicken. I like to think we've accomplished that.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food?

Food, in general, is my guilty pleasure, but I'd have to say that I have a significant ice cream problem.

Tell us about the last great meal you ate.

One night I was able to leave work a little early and get to the Clam Box on Wollaston Beach in Quincy, Massachusetts. It's a small fried clam spot right on the beach, and this is not by any means a bucolic seashore. But I've been going there since I was a kid and it's just perfect. Super fresh clams, beautifully fried and perfectly under-seasoned. The best tartar sauce around. It's my happy place and I was able to get there before closing, grab a bite to eat, and relax. I often find the circumstances and emotions surrounding a meal have as much to do with the food in terms of enjoyment. I can't wait until they reopen in a few weeks.

What are the best places to eat in your city these days? 

  • Seizi Imura is the chef and owner at Café Sushi just outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge. Really spectacular and creative sushi. He has finally started to get recognition in Boston over the last few years, but I think the rest of the world should know his name and eat his food.
  • Wyatt Maguire at Courtyard at the Boston Public Library is also an incredibly talented, technical cook. They're only open for lunch, but his food is delicious, the room is stunning, and in the summer, it's a great way to spend an afternoon in one of the most classic buildings in the city.
  • I recently had a great meal at Spoke in Somerville. John DaSilva is doing really complex food that looks so simple out of a tiny, really tiny, space. The room is very relaxed and they have a great wine list. It's one of those places where you still think about the food you ate days later.
  • I have a great love for classic restaurants. Places that remind me of what it was like eating out in Boston as a kid when I was just starting to think about what exactly I was eating. Grill 23 is one of those great rooms with a serious beverage program and well-executed food. They aren't striving to reinvent the wheel and that's what makes them perfect. They make great food that makes you happy. I also can't say enough about No. 9 Park. It has always been—and will continue to be—a benchmark restaurant in Boston. It set the tone for dining in the city the day it opened and has continued to do so years later. 
  • There are a lot of great places that have opened this past year that I haven't had time to get to but hope to soon. I'm really looking forward to getting to Café Artscience to see what Patrick Campbell is doing. I've missed eating his food. (And be sure to check out the event details and menu from Patrick Campbell's Beard House dinner this past February!)
  • Also, the Clam Box in Quincy. Obviously.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?

When I was a cook at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I used to be very hard on myself whenever I made an error or had a rough service. And when I first started, that happened pretty frequently! Josh Lawler was the chef de cuisine when I was there (he now owns the Farm and the Fisherman and the Farm and the Fisherman Tavern in Philly) and after a rough patch during a particularly hard service, I remember him walking down the line to my station with a huge smile on his face. He smacked me on my shoulder and asked me what was wrong. I started ranting about whatever it was and he shook me silent and still smiling said, "Marky, the job's too hard and the hours are too long for you to take it this seriously. Relax or you'll burn out." It was a small moment but it left a huge impression on me and immediately changed my approach in the kitchen. Josh was—and still is—a great chef and generous mentor.

View all upcoming Beard House events and book your seat at jamesbeard.org/events.

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Hilary Deutsch is editorial assistant at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram.