The restaurant industry is filled with cutthroat competitors. But Boston’s scene also boasts great camaraderie, and most chefs can name at least one industry predecessor whose mentorship made a profound impact. We asked some of the city’s young hotshots to share a veteran chef whose guidance has helped them grow inside and outside the kitchen.
Back when Pedrosa met Berry, the former was “mad at the world,” a 17-year-old with a chip on his shoulder from tough times growing up. But Berry, an established vet who was judging Pedrosa in a cooking competition sponsored by C-CAP, a culinary scholarship program for inner-city youth, recognized the fiery young gun as a burgeoning talent—and a kindred spirit.
“When I was his age, both my parents died around the same time,” says Berry, who built his early reputation as Ming Tsai’s right-hand man. “It has always been tough not having that kind of support system: those people you know you can fall back on.”
Thus began the brother-like dynamic that gives both chefs someone to lean on. Pedrosa followed Berry from Cambridge’s Temple Bar to Nantucket, where he helped the older chef open Great Harbor Yacht Club. Now they’re teamed at Yvonne’s, a stylish supper club and one of Boston’s buzziest hotspots. A matured, mellowed Pedrosa does marvelous stuff as executive chef (The Improper deemed Yvonne’s Boston’s best new restaurant last year). He also lends support to Berry’s work as culinary director for the restaurant and its sibling spots, Back Bay’s Lolita Cocina and downtown’s just-opened Peruvian-Asian entry Ruka.
But their fraternal bond goes beyond the kitchen. Together they hit up Metallica concerts and visited Pedrosa’s grandmother in the Puerto Rican mountains, and they’re planning a Texas motorcycle trip. “Tom helped me find a place where I could grow as an individual,” Pedrosa says. “It took a lot of breaking down—and a lot of rebuilding.”