Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Hugo's: The Education of Rob Evans
From an article in the Maine Magazine, Jan/Feb 2010.
The Education of Rob Evans
He grew up in Southborough, Massachusetts. The men in his family were electricians. Evans went to vocational high school but never even considered working in the trade.
When he was 20, he sold his motorcycle, bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii, and found a cheap apartment right on Sunset Beach and a job cooking breakfast at a surf shop across the street. “That was probably the sweetest situation of my life,” he says. “I was out of work by noon, surfing and playing on the beach all day long. It was so good that it got boring, and I took a job in a cruise ship kitchen.”
On the ship, Evans worked three-month-long shifts with a month off between to travel. He did it for three years. As the ship sailed around the South Pacific, he worked through every station in the kitchen.
In the fall of 1998, Evans tried out for a line cook job at The Inn at Little Washington, the famously over-the-top restaurant and inn in Washington, Virginia. He got the job and went back to working 14 hours a day for eight dollars an hour.
A year later, Evans and his then-girlfriend, now wife, Nancy Pugh, moved on to The French Laundry in Yountville, California. At that time it was considered the very best restaurant in the country.
“Everything was different at The Laundry,” he says. “Everything was cleaner and better, and done its own way.” For his tryout, Evans spent the day in the kitchen doing prep work. During service, he stood in a corner of the kitchen and watched how it all went down. “Watching that food go out sent chills down my spine,” he says.
Evans and Pugh left Napa after six months to open their own place. For a couple months, they lived out of their pick-up. “Our stuff was all over the place,” says Evans. “We had no apartment, no money in the bank, nothing. And that’s when we heard about Hugo’s. The owner was willing to sell cheap.”
In the seven years that they’ve been open, Evans and Pugh have gone from total unknowns to totally famous in the food world.
In 2004, Evans was named one of the best new chefs by Food & Wine magazine. In 2009, he won the coveted James Beard Foundation award for best chef in the Northeast.
Hugo's in Portland, ME