The Merry Chefs of Cuisine en Locale

On a recent Monday, Union Square’s shared use Kitchen Inc. was alive with the hustle and bustle of planning and cooking meals for those enrolled in Cuisine en Locale’s Once a Week food preparation and delivery program. At the helm of the operation is JJ Gonson, a passionate local food advocate bringing her values to the people of Somerville, Cambridge, Boston and beyond through the food she and her team cooks.

Once a Week is like a community supported agriculture (CSA) program but for food cooked by chefs from locally grown ingredients. The shares contain about four-five main dishes and sides, enough to feed two adults for several days.

When I visited the kitchen, the Cuisine en Locale crew was busy cooking up tandoori chicken, grilled zucchini, brisket in a rhubarb and garlic scape marinade and much more for its Once a Week omnivore share, which was to be delivered to about 15 homes in the area. There is also a vegetarian version available, which is cooked on a different day of the week.

Gonson’s passion for local, wholesome food really took off when she had her two children and now it’s wrapped up in everything she does. Her daughter, Ruby, was in the kitchen the day I visited, coloring in a new sign for Cuisine en Locale and offering suggestions to the chefs (she didn’t think the raw garlic scape was very delicious, but it smelled terrific blended into a marinade for the brisket).

The Cuisine en Locale team had catered a reunion over the weekend, breaking down 24 Stillman Farm birds to grill in a honey-ginger marinade. What remained of the chickens was being used in the Once a Week omnivore share, bathed in a yogurt and herb marinade.

“We always make stuff up based on what we have,” Gonson said. She works closely with the Cuisine en Locale team to determine what they’ll cook out of the seasonal, local ingredients that are available.

There was a lot of collaboration happening in the kitchen the day I visited, with a discussion of how to use some frozen corn and what to do with some of the year’s first shelling peas.

From Left: Heather Schmidt, Megan Guidarelli, JJ Gonson, Alex, Suma Greenwald, Ruby, Angela Gaimari, Ken Cmar, Brian Sway, Tom Novotny, Rob Booz

“We have proteins that are either fresh or defrosted and we build menus around those,” said Tom Novotny, who has cooked for Cuisine en Locale for more than a year.

In addition to the chicken and brisket, the kitchen was full of late spring and early summer vegetables, like kale, garlic scapes and rhubarb. The chefs were especially excited about local cucumbers, radishes and greens like lettuce, spinach and arugula, which were all coming in from local farms.

“The real challenge is to keep it interesting,” said Novotny, who used to work on a farm. “It gets easier starting this time of year.”


Cuisine en Locale
Once a Week: $125 for one week’s share//$450 for a four-pack (save $50)//$1350 for a baker’s dozen (save $275) (delivery included in Somerville, Cambridge and parts of Boston). Plus catering for reunions, parties, weddings and more …

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