At first glance, the brothers could hardly be more different. Thomas, 42, is quiet and intense, a self-described worrywart. Joseph, 44, is an extrovert with a booming voice, shiny shaved head and tattoos. Still, the brothers share two qualities: a fierce work ethic and a discipline that comes with French training. As Thomas explains, "We're both believers in organization and preparation. Our mother taught us that no matter what you do, you do it the right way."
In fact their mother, Elizabeth, introduced the two to professional kitchens. Elizabeth, a restaurant manager, was anxious to return to work after having five sons and going through a divorce. Joseph and Thomas, who at ages eight and six were the youngest (sister Judy was born later), went with her. "Our afterschool activities had a lot to do with peeling vegetables," says Thomas. "Mom didn't believe in child labor laws." At home, Joseph prepared most of the family meals. "I would watch Graham Kerr and then run and make whatever he did," he recalls. Thomas didn't show much interest in cooking--"I was the one washing the dishes," he says--although Judy remembers at least one disastrous collaboration: "When Joseph was about 14, he and Thomas made French fries but forgot to take the plastic insert out of the Frialator. Do you know how bad plastic smells when it's burning? Well, it smells even worse when it's frying."
When Joseph was 10, he filled in for a chef who showed up drunk for work at one of his mother's restaurants; by 15, Joseph had landed at Petite Marmite in Palm Beach, Florida, a premier dining spot in the Seventies. After seven years, Joseph moved up to Nantucket, returning to Florida in the winters to cook; one memorable season he worked for a Saudi Arabian prince, who paid him with a suitcase full of cash. In 1988, Joseph walked into The Woodbox Inn and, except for winters spent working in France or snowboarding, he's been there ever since.