When Todd English was growing up in Amarillo, Texas, he wanted to be a major league baseball player. But dinner plates won out over home plate, and English became chef-owner of Olives and of Figs, two restaurants near Boston that could easily win the World Series of dining. And that was just the first inning.
Even in college in North Carolina, baseball was at the top of the list for English. But eventually the taste of fine food won his heart, and he excelled at the Culinary Institute of America, graduating with honors. Although he apprenticed in New York at La Cote Basque, a bastion of classic French food, it was his experience in two of Italy’s finest restaurants that influenced English to develop his unique style and approach as executive chef at Michela’s, an award-winning Northern Italian restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
English began his cooking career at age 15 when he first entered the doors of a professional kitchen. At 20, he attended the CIA and graduated in 1982. He continued to hone his craft with Chef Jean Jacques Rachou at New York’s La Cote Basque, then relocated to Italy where he apprenticed at Dal Pescatore in Canto Sull O’lio and Paraccuchi in Locando D’Angello. At 25 he was invited to be the Executive Chef at Michela’s in Cambridge, where Great Chefs later had filmed Chef Jody Adams for the Great Chefs of the East series. In 1989, Todd opened his first restaurant, Olives in Charlestown, MA. Great Chefs taped Chef English in 1996 at the original Olives for the Great Cities series. Other Olives outposts later, opened at the Bellagio in Las Vegas; Mexico City, and the Bahamas.
Olives began as a fifty-seat storefront restaurant in Charlestown and gained recognition with English’s interpretive European cooking. Moving to a larger space, Olives was voted one of the Top Ten Restaurants by Esquire magazine and as the Best New Restaurant by Boston magazine in 1990. English’s other endeavor, Figs, was named the Best Pizza Pad by Boston magazine in its annual Best of Boston issue. Named one of the James Beard Rising Star chefs in 1991, he was named Best Chef, Northeast, in 1994.
Molly O’Neill of the New York Times Magazine wrote that “his cooking has all of the exuberance of youth, the sense that you better eat now, because tomorrow who knows.” She added that his menu “is one part rustic Italian and one part American more-is-plenty.” English is known for his liberal use of olive oil, huge portions of marbled meats, and food tasting of the brick hearth, wood-fired grill, and rotisserie.
Todd English, in perpetual motion now has ten restaurants, television appearances, cookbooks, gourmet items.