Chef Dave Becker is Starting the Art-to-Table Movement
Serving food from restaurant rooftop gardens? That's so last year. Dave Becker of Sweet Basil in Needham, Massachusetts can see what’s next, and if he’s right chefs will go from growing to throwing. Dave isn’t just the owner and chef at Sweet Basil—he’s also the restaurant’s exclusive potter. He's made almost every plate and serving dish in the place and over 1000 pieces in total, although he occasionally has to use store-bought dishes on busy days.
Becker started throwing to keep himself sane while working long hours in the kitchen. "I found myself incapable of talking about normal stuff," he says. "My eyes couldn't adjust to sunlight anymore." He needed a release, and he found it in pottery. After a lesson and a few YouTube how-to videos, he was throwing plates. A few weeks later, he felt confident enough in his work serve his food on it. Becker believes that just as restaurants now brag about the producers of their kale and beef, soon they'll spotlight the stoneware artist that made their bowls. Whether or not the chef-potter trend catches on at other restaurants, it's clear that Becker is acquiring a following for his work. He's already made dishes for Tavern Road and Asta in Boston, as well as Juan Pedrosa’s soon-to-be-opened The Glenville Stops. Diners are noticing too: Becker says he's constantly asked if he's Patrick Swayze or Demi Moore (a reference to a certain sensual pottery scene in the movie Ghost for you non-moviegoers). And on the busy occasions when he does run out of his own plates, and he needs to use plain white ceramic, customers seem honestly miffed that they “aren’t good enough for the special plates.” While Becker’s first love will always be cooking (he's opening a sister restaurant to Sweet Basil soon), he is planning to scale up his pottery. Right now he works in a communal studio and soon he hopes to move into his own space, where he won't get in trouble for hogging the kiln.