Culinary Director, The Lyons Group; Chef, Rochambeau
Having served diners and the community for over 12 years as the chef at the popular French bistro Brasserie Jo, Chef Nick Calias has moved down the street in Boston’s chic Back Bay neighborhood to helm a new French brasserie and café called Rochambeau. At the same time, he has also become the Culinary Director for the Lyons Group, which owns and manages restaurants and other venues all over Boston and far beyond, including such legendary eateries as Jasper White’s Summer Shack, Sonsie, and the Bleacher Bar, which is located in the famed Green Monster at Fenway Park.
In addition to making the best use of every inch of his kitchen, Chef Calias has also spread out to other venues, including the roof of the Colonnade Hotel, where he regularly held special events that raised nearly $50,000 for the hunger relief organization Share Our Strength. He also helped Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez create the Feast with 45 events that raised money for Martinez’s charitable foundation.
Santé: How did you get into cooking?
I started cooking with my dad at age 11 in our family-owned restaurant in NH.
Santé: Who inspired you?
My dad was my first mentor. He got me cooking at such an early age that passion took over.
Santé: Where was your first professional kitchen experience, and what lessons did you learn that continue to educate how you work today?
My first non-family kitchen was at the Tara Ferncroft [hotel] in Danvers, MA. I had a great chef Jon Stern (who has become a great friend for the last 25 plus years). He taught us to stay focused and to multitask. Ferncroft was a bustling convention hotel!
Santé: What have been the biggest challenges you have faced, and how have you handled them?
Some of my biggest challenges back then was learning to deal with the pressures of being an executive chef at 25 of a $10 million food and beverage operation. Now things are challenging in a totally different way. Trying to navigate through the year has been tough on all of us, but we keep on thinking of out of the box to create a better experience for our guest.
Santé: How has your cooking and business style changed and how has the industry changed?
My cooking has always been the same – you pick up things all the time from great chefs that you meet and collaborate with. I think my business side has changed a lot – now it’s more of how and why instead of just do.
Santé: What are you most looking forward to this year, in terms of your career?
I am looking forward to bringing back all of our teams, being able to work with all the staff in all of our venues that have had a tougher year than all of us. Looking forward to a brighter year for sure. As for my career, I want to continue to grow, mentor more young chefs and help them take over kitchens.
Bananas Foster French Toast
This is something I used to make with my mother and still love!
4 slices brioche
1 egg, beaten
2 TBSP milk
2 oz white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz cubed butter plus 1 TBSP
2 oz brown sugar
2 oz dark rum
For French Toast:
In one bowl, mix together the egg, white sugar, milk, and vanilla.
Add the sliced brioche and allow to sit for 30 seconds, and absorb the mixture.
Heat a non-stick pan, add one tbs of butter.
Sauté French toast, browning on both sides.
(TIP: Keep on medium to low heat to prevent from burning.)
5. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the Sauce:
Add cubed butter and brown sugar to a separate heated pan.
Cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add bananas and continue to cook.
After 2-3 minutes deglaze (off heat) with rum.
Place back on flames and cook off the rum.
Cut French toast in half and place on a plate.
Top with sauce.