Taking the leap
by Ruth Tobias
| July 26, 2010
Photo: JOEL VEAK
The name of Jason Bond's forthcoming restaurant, Bondir (279A Broadway, Cambridge), is obviously a play on his own name. It's also French for "to leap," which seems like a fitting verb to associate with any chef's first solo venture. But when it comes to sourcing ingredients, Bond is no risk-taker - during his four-year stint at Beacon Hill Bistro, he forged close relationships with producers, so he knows exactly where his sorrel first sprouted, where the red cornmeal for his Bloody Butcher grits was ground.
And while most chefs these days at least pay lip service to the notion of sourcing local, seasonal ingredients, few go to the same lengths as Bond in realizing that vision; as he points out, "Much as everybody likes the idea of doing it, it takes time to actually make it work." When he's not behind the stove, you'll often find him at area farms, working with producers to grow vegetables and raise meats with the characteristics he seeks, like couldn't-be-fresher herbs from Eva's Garden and Red Broiler chickens from Pete & Jen's Backyard Birds. As he puts it, "Everything's a project, everything's always in development" when good food is at stake.
Such a patient, single-minded approach to his craft comes naturally to this heartland native, whose families - Scottish and Mexican on his mother's side, English and Palestinian on his father's - "both had huge gardens and preserved everything, and every get-together was all about cooking and eating. Every holiday, if you had fewer than seven pies, you were embarrassed." Of course, it has also served him well from a career standpoint, from the kitchens of Barbara Lynch and Susan Regis onward. "I've been working for 20 years with the goal of eventually having a place of my own," Bond admits. "I finally found a place that I thought I could afford."
And now that he has, he's bound (if not bond) and determined to make it his own. As the former site of two successive Portuguese restaurants, Atasca and Con Sol, Bondir's Cambridge space has long been known for its snug, rustic charm. Though Bond is still in the planning stages of interior decoration - "Some people with better taste than me are on the job," he laughs - he has some definite ideas: "I'm going for sort of a pastoral feel. Back in the 1950s, all the post offices in Wyoming and Kansas, where I grew up, had these Americana themes, with 10-foot murals of wheat fields and tractors. I'm thinking about maybe giving that [motif] to a local graffiti artist and seeing what he can do with it."
Wait . . . a graffiti artist? Did you see that coming? Me neither. Just because Bond wears his locavore heart on his sleeve doesn't mean he doesn't have some surprises up it. In fact, when the restaurant opens this fall, he'll be unveiling them constantly on a menu that, he says, "for the most part, will change all the time. It'll be based on what I have right then." Likewise, the "highly curated" beer and wine selections won't be your average rote roster of cab and chard: "Maybe a vin jaune from the Jura, which is kind of like sherry," he muses. "Maybe mead from a local producer . . ."
In the end, it's funny, the extent to which a chef so thoroughly associated with urbane bistro cuisine seems so much more focused on the site of production than the site of transformation, the raw material rather than the cooked result. "If my name is associated with anything," he says, "I hope it's quality. That's what I spend so much time working on - sourcing ingredients, getting the best product that I can get, and connecting people with the farmer." Sounds like his word may be his bond.