Executive Chef, Boston Harbor Hotel (www.bhh.com)
Founder, Boston Wine Festival (www.bostonwinefestival.net)
For over 30 years, Chef Daniel Bruce has been pulling more than his weight in maintaining and improving the Boston’s only Forbes Five-Star & AAA Five Diamond waterfront hotel – The Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf. Among his many initiatives was the creation the Boston Wine Festival, which has brought hundreds of vintners and thousands of oenophiles to Boston and become America’s longest-running such event!
Making the most of Boston’s seafood bounty and other locally-sourced ingredients, Chef Bruce’s preparations are as beautiful as they are healthy and work as perfectly for romantic dinners as they do for corporate events.
After graduating with honors from Johnson & Wales University (the first of many accolades which has also included being named Vice Consellier Culiniaire, Bailliage de Boston and being honored twice as one of the “Best Hotel Chefs in America” at the James Beard House), Chef Bruce studied in Italy and France before returning to the United States to serve in New York’s legendary 21 (where he soon became the youngest executive chef in the venue’s vaunted history!). As a native New Englander, Chef Bruce could not shake his desire to return home and bring his international talents to friends and neighbors.
Now the world comes to him!
Santé: How did you get into cooking? Who inspired you?
My mother said she always knew I would be a chef. I used to try making foods by pushing a chair over to the cabinets when I was three to try and recreate anything she made that I liked. My grandmother, who was an amazing cook and was always was canning, baking, and making everything from scratch in the kitchen, was really the foundation for me. She brought such joy to everyone with everything she made and the smells and flavors are still with me today!
Santé: Where was your first professional kitchen experience and what lessons did you learn that continue to educate how you work in your kitchen today?
My first job in a restaurant was in a small central Maine town of Skowhegan, where I was fortunate enough to work for the owner/chef Florence Blaisdell at her restaurant, the Candlelight. The thing I learned most from her was her dedication to the craft and how hard she worked. She was truly an inspiration and it was she that convinced me to go to Johnson and Wales and also assisted me in securing loans. I owe much of who I am as a chef to her, as I try to set the example to all that work for me and that is a direct result of that first job.
Santé: What have been the biggest challenges you have faced and how have you handled then?
Of course, the past 11 months have been the hardest and most challenging ever for our business (and I have been around a long time!). The most difficult aspect is the furloughing and laying off of so many of our team. They are family to me and it breaks my heart to have had to make these decisions that honestly we had no choice in making because of the pandemic. I make it a point to check in with them to stay connected. I truly look forward to the day when I can call them back to be even better than we were before.
Santé: How has your cooking and business style changed and how has the industry changed?
Ha, which decade? There have been so many changes throughout my career – so many great changes! We live in a remarkable country where we all are constantly changing and facing new challenges. Currently, I am very impressed at the concern more and more of our population has for eating whole, organic, healthy foods and moving away from all the added processes that have been detrimental to our overall health. We as chefs can do much to inspire and encourage this and I believe we are. I was raised in a very remote region of New England where the respect for nature and eating off the land was a way of life. I am thrilled to see this as widespread as it is becoming today!
Santé: What are you most looking forward to this year, in terms of your career?
Getting back to the days where we can create memories and hiring my team back and building our business is of utmost importance.
CREAM OF WILD MUSHROOM SOUP
(Taken from the book, Chef Daniel Bruce Simply New England: Seasonal Recipes That Celebrate Land and Sea)
Being a long-time forager, of course I would have to have a wild mushroom soup! Using as many different types of mushrooms as possible adds layers and layers of flavor.
1 lb. assorted wild mushrooms
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbs. butter
1 cup Madeira or Marsala
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup light cream
Salt and pepper
1. Clean the mushrooms and cut into quarters.
2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepot. Add the onions and sauté until they turn light brown, about 7 or 8 minutes.
3. Turn the heat to high and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the Madeira or Marsala and continue cooking over high heat until the liquid is reduced in half, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Whisk in the light cream and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree the soup in a batches in a blender or use an immersion blender.
7. Season with salt and pepper and serve. (For a smoother soup, strain the soup through a strainer before serving).
Chef’s Tip: The most flavorful mushrooms available in the supermarket are dried porcini. Rehydrate them in warm water for 15 minutes and use the liquid in place of some of the chicken stock, using one ounce of dried porcini per one cup of water.