Amid the frenzy of so many Mexican restaurants opening this spring, one thing stood out to us: The bravado of Temazcal chef Todd Hall. While other places were promising oodles of tequila choices, he was busy being quotable. You know, telling the Improper that “what Bostonians think is Mexican is actually Tex-Mex” and informing readers that our quesadilla tortillas are usually about 30 days old. So we were pretty interested to read today’s Globe piece that digs deeper into the troubled chef’s persona.
His personal resume makes Anthony Bourdain look like Marie Osmond: He’s endured the death of a child, who drowned in a swimming pool. He was almost killed in a parking-lot drug deal gone bad. His marriage ended due to drug abuse, and he lost oodles of prime jobs the same way. Basically, it’s a wonder he’s still alive, since “he shot up enough cocaine to leave both arms permanently bruised and spent months in jail for fraud and theft, victimizing some of the very same luxury hotels that had once employed him.” In these luxe hotels, he’d smoke meth, run up a tab, and then skip out on the bill.
On the other side of the coin: Decades ago, “Jacques Pepin wrote to Julia Child praising Hall’s cooking and placing him among America’s top young chefs.” The Globe quotes plenty of other industry vets who also attest to his talent.
So what’s the story now? Back on an even keel, he tells the paper that “on drugs I get humble, quiet” — and he certainly hasn’t been quiet since opening Temazcal, which we can only interpret as good for his health, and hopefully his career.
“If just one chef out there is smoking meth and reads what I’m saying, it’s worth it,’’ he tells the Globe. “If someone who’s already ruined his career reads this, it’s worth it, too. Because when no one would hire me or talk to me, when I was damaged goods, I saw [Robert] Downey relapse and relapse and relapse again. Now he’s fricking Iron Man.’’
It wasn’t long ago that Boston welcomed another bad-ass, envelope-pushing chef named Todd. Is this one really going to be Iron Man of Mexican cooking? Or more of an Avenger? Either way, we’re rooting for him and his talent. Heartwarming success stories are always nice. More terrific Mexican food in Boston would be nice, too.
Chef Todd Hall Alive and Cooking [Globe]