Ingredients

1/4 pound lobster meat, chilled
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (Hellman's)
juice of one quarter lemon
1 teaspoon small dice celery
pinch each fresh parsley and tarragon, chopped fine
salt and pepper
unsalted butter
New England-style hotdog roll

Directions

1. Mix first six ingredients.
2. Butter then toast the bun until golden on all sides.
3. Fill with cold lobster salad.
4. Finish with a little finely chopped chives.

Here is the tale of two chefs: The senior executive had been chef at Chris Douglas's once Zagat-wowed Icarus for 10 years. The executive chef arrived from Oleana, the Cambridge restaurant where farm-inspired food is blessed by Ana Sortun's spice genius.

These two chefs, cooking friends for years, share a sensibility for the best ingredients with the shortest mileage - meaning local, local, local. Their dishes — like whole-roasted Rhode Island Sea Bass with aromatics, aioli, herb oil, roasted fingerling potatoes and marinated local squashes — intend to highlight local fare, elevating, not smothering, with spice and seasoning. They make almost everything from scratch, from the charcuterie for "Cuccina Italiana" — house-made sausage with grilled onions and peppers, fresh marinara, Parmesan Reggiano, on a griddled roll — to smoking their own pork for a pulled pork sandwich with housemade pickles and coleslaw. Their restaurant seats 38,000 people. The smoker is behind the bleachers.
Oh, yeah, while you eat, you can also watch a baseball game. Ron Abell and Nookie Postal are the executive chefs at Fenway Park. Who knew that Fenway Park even had chefs, let alone that they are the real deal?
I arrived at Fenway with the camera crew to make a text with Ron and Nookie, who instantly enjoyed our awe. The camera guys and I couldn't believe we were in a stately dining room, the EMC Club, with a stunning view from behind home plate to the Citgo sign. If views were movie stars, this one's a heartthrob. Ron and Nookie played along, unabashedly pleased that this was their kitchen.
I began to wander around, inspecting the rows of Most Valuable Player plaques, the Golden Gloves, with legends scrolled everywhere — Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Tony Conigliaro, Luis Tiant, Rico Petrocelli — and I could tell Ron was watching, accustomed to the reverence this room inspires. But when I asked if I could see a menu, something new flashed in his eyes. While the lighting was arranged and the producer explained the shoot to the chefs, I browsed through the squash blossom "poppers" filled with Vermont goat cheese and jalapeé±os in a Romesco sauce, the sweet pea risotto, the house-made arugula tagliatelle with Jersey corn and chanterelle mushrooms. Finally, Ron called across the room, and then I realized he'd been waiting for a response all along, "Heather, what do you think?" That was the moment I loved these guys. They've been Sox fans their whole lives; I'm pretty sure they pinch themselves even when they're in the middle of being slammed with 150 covers all wanting dinner, dessert and coffee before the end of the first inning. These guys are deeply proud of the food they prepare. The Red Sox are the Red Sox; everyone loves them. But the menu is Ron and Nookie's.
Ron stated emphatically to me more than once, "We're doing here exactly what we did when we worked in fine restaurants, when we watched over every plate leaving the kitchen; we just do it here for thousands of people."
Nookie put it this way, "We have the same commitment to local foods and sustainable farming that we did at Oleana's and Icarus; but instead of five gallons it's 50."
Let's give the executives at Fenway Park a little credit; Abell and Nookie arrived in 2006. Somewhere upstairs at the Red Sox a decision was born to hire serious chefs with a green, modern vision of dining. What inspired that?
Well, did you know that in 2008, Fenway installed solar thermal panels that help heat water throughout the ballpark, which, according to Red Sox press, saves in a year the energy equivalent to not driving a car for 43,611 miles? In the 2009-2010 offseason, Fenway renovated the restrooms to dramatically cut down on water usage. That celebrated verdant turf is being treated with organic fertilizers. The lawn mowers now run on bio-diesel fuel and the utility carts are electric. Each game, 75 volunteers collect 400 pounds of plastic cups and bottles. In 2009, Fenway Park recycled 64.89 tons in single stream recycling.
This is all part of a call by owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino for "Greening Fenway." In a statement marking the 98th anniversary of Fenway Park, the owners say, "our primary mission is to win games and championships; and we are committed to doing so in a first-class ballpark that protects the environment. While we have taken steps in the right direction, there is still far to go and the Red Sox remain committed to raise public awareness about the importance of conservation, and adopting more recycling and other clean practices so that future generations can enjoy Fenway Park and Mother Earth as much as we do today."
Fenway Park and Mother Earth, those kissing cousins. Somewhere in this grand overhaul aimed at the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park in 2012, and including the major renovation of the .406 Club, someone upstairs at the Red Sox decided they also wanted the best food in baseball. Bringing in 3-star chefs committed to local ingredients just made sense.
Does Ortiz need Carribean specialties? Was there a crash course in Japanese homecooking when Daisuke and Hideki arrived? We can't answer that. As Ron says, "we cook for 38,000 people; Thank gosh, we don't cook for the players, too. Can you imagine what a hassle that would be?" It's true. Ron and Nookie oversee all the food at Fenway Park: the EMC room, the State Street Pavilion, the luxury suites, the Absolut Club, the Players Club. They cook for the Red Sox media and the other team's media. They cook for the owners, the players' wives, and I'm guessing the players' mothers show up sometimes, too. Abell and Nookie even have a hand in the concessions, where that house-smoked pulled pork sandwich, along with a chicken caesar salad wrap, and daily cut fresh fruit are on the menu with Fenway Franks. In fact, Ron and Nookie's Lobster Roll — yes, the perfect local ingredient — is inching up to hotdogs as the iconic food at Fenway. Two hundred pounds of lobster meat is served at every game; that's a lot of happy New England lobstermen.
"We don't want food from Peru and Uruguay," Ron says. In recent columns I've written about Alice Waters' famed Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, and its partnership with Bob Cannard's Sonoma Valley farm, which grows all the produce for that restaurant. Lest you think for a minute Ron and Nookie aren't ahead of the curve, they have a long, deep relationship with Ward's Berry Farm in Sharon. Originally Ward grew mostly pumpkins, corn and tomatoes — easy pick-ur-own standards — but now he is responsible for almost all the produce Ron and Nookie require, from herbs to those squash blooms to Jerusalem artichokes. Ron and Nookie recently took 50 of their kitchen staff to Ward's farm for a picnic, and so they could see where and how the food they work with everyday is grown. Like any good teacher, Ron and Nookie understand the power of a field trip. Connection, connection, connection.
A quick glance at their careers looks like this: Ron attended Johnson & Wales in Providence, worked at Maison Robert, did a tour as the chef on a private yacht, where he was told by the captain he was the most important person on the boat — "You're the entertainment!" — came back to work at Biba, and then Icarus.
When Abell got the call to Fenway, he offered his Icarus position to his old friend, Nookie. Nookie came in to apply, and Ron told him where he was going, at which point Nookie put on a puppy-dog face and whimpered, "I wanna go with yoooouu!" The Red Sox answer? "You're bringing in someone named Nookie?!"
Nookie has a degree in economics, and then went to culinary school. He started out at Casa Blanca with Ana Sortun, and returned to help her open Oleana after an eight-month break to tour Europe and North Africa with his wife. I asked him the easy question of what cuisine he loved the most on that trip, which elicited a description of a wonderful sandwich in a Moroccan marketplace that Ana Sortun would be proud of: the vendor split a ciabatta-like bread, mashed some warm potato in a bowl, peeled a hard-boiled egg and mashed that in, too. Then he added olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. The vendor mashed all together and pressed it into the bread. Who knows? With Ron and Nookie at Fenway, there might come a day when I'm eating that sandwich in the grandstands.

Fenway Park Lobster Rolls
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