MEET THE STAFF
Born to Cook

A Conversation with Corporate Chef Ed Cotton

Considering his parents owned a restaurant, Chef Ed Cotton knew the pros and cons of the restaurant business at an early age. During preschool, he spent his mornings jumping on flour sacks in the dry-storage room. By middle school, he was scooping ice cream. So when he got the opportunity to go to the award-winning Minuteman High School in his hometown of Lexington, Massachusetts, to study the culinary arts, it was a no-brainer.

A work-study program had a 17-year-old Cotton in the kitchen at Todd English’s Olives. It wasn’t easy, but he says the experience was invaluable. “A lot of us in the Boston area came from a handful of really solid local chefs like Todd,” he explains. “It was tough love. You learned a lot.”

Before meeting Chef Tourondel and working for him at BLT Market, Cotton honed his skills in Las Vegas at Olives at the Bellagio, under Chef Barbara Lynch at No. 9 Park in Boston, and for Daniel Boulud at db Bistro Moderne and Restaurant Daniel in New York City.

A Conversation with Corporate Chef Ed Cotton

Then television beckoned. Highlights included six seasons as Chef Cat Cora’s sous-chef on Iron Chef America, runner-up on Season 7 of Top Chef, and contestant on Beat Bobby Flay.

After working for Chef Tourondel, Cotton moved on to several other New York establishments, cooking for the likes of David Burke. He stayed in touch with Tourondel, calling him up one day to ask his advice on menus and kitchen layouts for a place he was contemplating opening. “I so appreciated him taking the time to hear my vision and review my business plan,” Cotton says. Eventually, their paths crossed again when the corporate chef position became available.

“I have always been a fan of Chef Tourondel’s food: his combinations, creativity, and style,” says Cotton, who acknowledges that it’s an exciting time for the group overall. “There are so many opportunities within the properties and current concepts that I was happy to come on board to be a part of it all.”

In many respects, Ed Cotton grew up in a kitchen many up-and-coming chefs will never experience. His resume reads like a who’s who of the restaurant world, and he cut his teeth over long hours and in tough kitchens that by today’s standards are no longer tolerated. Yet he easily embraces the technology that constantly changes the food conversation today. “People are more educated than ever about food. Instagram influencers set trends.” He points to vegetarian and vegan dishes on each of the menus, something that would have been rare to see even five years ago. He’s excited about the future of the dining room, because his guests’ tastes allow him to be more adventurous with flavor-forward, fun ingredients.

As corporate chef, Cotton is the liaison between the properties. “I’m in constant contact with most of the chefs in the group.” Social media facilitates the relationships, allowing easy access to test-recipe photos and the like. “It’s fun to offer my input on a certain dish. I get to impart a little bit of me on each of these menus in various places. And that’s pretty cool.”

Fast Facts with Ed Cotton

East Coast or West Coast living?
East Coast all the way!

Indulgent food ingredient?
A turbot or John Dory fish

Three spices always in your pantry?
Madras curry powder, Sazón seasoning, and chili flakes

Indispensable kitchen tool?
Microplane

Red, white, or bubbly?
White

East Coast or West Coast living?
East Coast all the way!

Indulgent food ingredient?
A turbot or John Dory fish

Three spices always in your pantry?
Madras curry powder, Sazón seasoning, and chili flakes

Indispensable kitchen tool?
Microplane

Red, white, or bubbly?
White

Cookbook you’re currently reading?
Mark Bittman’s latest Dinner for Everyone. It features iconic dishes three ways: easy, vegetarian, or perfect for company.

Guilty-pleasure food TV show?
Top Chef. Yes, I was on it, and I still enjoy watching it.

Home composter?
Unfortunately, no. But there’s one in our local community garden in Long Island City.

What a home cook should always have at home.
A good, sharp knife. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, just always sharp.

Cookbook you’re currently reading?
Mark Bittman’s latest Dinner for Everyone. It features iconic dishes three ways: easy, vegetarian, or perfect for company.

Guilty-pleasure food TV show?
Top Chef. Yes, I was on it, and I still enjoy watching it.

Home composter?
Unfortunately, no. But there’s one in our local community garden in Long Island City.

What a home cook should always have at home.
A good, sharp knife. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, just always sharp.