“The way we write dishes—it’s a creative exercise.”
Bondir founder Chef Jason Bond, whose 28-seat restaurant celebrates its fifth birthday next month, pauses to sip an espresso. “We’re finding these great ingredients and investigating them and thinking about them … there’s endless variations—it’s like a Rubiks cube.”
Bond found his passion for food in college, where he was studying music but found himself spending more time in front of a frying pan than behind a music stand. After a few years of reading cookbooks cover-to-cover, he piled everything into his car and headed east to attend culinary school. He spent years studying and working in kitchens around the globe and opened Bondir in 2010.
What sets this intimate establishment apart from some of its fine dining counterparts is Bondir Gardens, a two-acre farm in Carlisle, Mass., where the team grows many of the ingredients that eventually appear in their dishes. “The idea of fine dining is that you need the best ingredients you can get,” Bond says. He is firm that Bondir was never intended to be a farm-to-table restaurant, and it’s true that in an effort to find the best ingredients, his establishment sources food from outside New England. “Still, the idea is that you need control over what you’re putting on the plate. Usually, it is local food, because you know exactly how big this turnip is or exactly how this chicken was raised.”
This was the third season for Bondir Gardens, where the yields aren’t big—and don’t need to be. Unlike commercial farms, Bond and his staff can plant fruits and vegetables to delicate or difficult to mass-produce—melons that only have a yield of one or two per vine, tiny alpine strawberries that stay fresh for a few short hours after they’re picked.
Chef Brendan Joy, who celebrated his first anniversary at Bondir last month, says that having the garden makes preparing his dishes a more personal experience. “To work with ingredients that come from the garden … you don’t want to waste any bit of flavor,” he says. “You want to try to harness as much as you can without destroying or manipulating it too much.” By building dishes around ingredients that are fresh and highlighting them with elements from beyond Massachusetts, he and Bond are honing a fine dining experience that still feels homey, offering world-class menu items made with dishes plucked practically from their backyard.
“One term that came out of college was Gesamtkunstwerk, which is like, ‘the entire experience of it,” Bond says, dusting off his musical chops. “Not just the music, but the costumes and the sets and everything. That’s how we’re looking at this—in addition to the dishes, trying to further develop this entire entity.”