We’re sneaking behind the kitchen door and stealing some of our favorite industry folk in Boston for a quick chat to get to know them better. We’ve come up with five fun questions for them to answer so you can get a taste of who they are. This is the first post in the series, more to come!
First up is Andres Branger, owner of Orinoco, a Latin kitchen with three locations in the city, one being a stop on our South End Sweet & Savory Tour. He’s offering up unique flavors to the Boston community from his home country of Venezuela. In 2015 Orinoco was awarded the title of Best South American Restaurant by Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston.
Branger is originally from Valencia, Venezuela. He opened Orinoco in the South End in 2006, modeling it after taguaritas, which are “rustic, inviting, family-run eateries found along Venezuelan roadsides,” as Orinoco’s website describes them. After completing undergraduate studies at Boston University, he wanted to figure out how to merge his life from back home with his new life in Boston. Food was his way of doing that.
5 Questions with Andres Branger
What do you eat late at night/early morning after a long shift?
“Oh, there are variations on the theme. On a week night, usually I take a Pabellon Criollo (the Venezuelan folkloric dish that consists of white rice, black beans, sweet plantain and shredded beef) home with me—total comfort food! On weekend nights I sample our specials here with a glass of wine, or most likely savor the Churrasquito (Orinoco’s grilled tenderloin steak with yuca fritas, my favorite) with a cold Negra Modelo. But, on very busy nights, especially late, I’ve been known to seek very light fares. For those nights, a few sticks of carrot and celery with a bit of hummus, at home, do the trick.”
Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
“There are several and usually involve people who’ve overcome insurmountable odds. But if I must pick one, it would fall outside of the restaurant business and more in my outdoorsy passion for travel and exploration; and that would-be Sir Ernest Shackleton, the British explorer who set out to become the first person to traverse Antarctica in the early 20th century. He failed to accomplish the goal—the voyage was filled with calamity and peril. Still, considering all the odds against him, he commandeered his crew through a dramatic feat of survival many would find hard to replicate in this age, even with all the technology available today. Running a restaurant is a crazy business, not unlike managing a three-ring circus, I like to say. Still, very seldom you see your life in peril, though sometimes it may feel otherwise. It’s all in the perspective!” (laughs)
What is your one go-to dish that you can make in your sleep? Who taught you to make this dish?
“Arepas. Every Venezuelan worth his/her gold learns to make these corn flour patties—for breakfast, lunch or dinner—at a very, very early age. I think I picked up the technique from my favorite aunt Teresa.”
What is your favorite dish in Boston?…Not from your own restaurant.
“If by Boston you mean of the New England variety, I would have to say B&G Oysters’ lobster roll. The very best!”
Are there any foods you hate?
“I’m truly game for everything and I don’t think there is a restaurant in this city with a menu where I wouldn’t find something I could eat. Something that surprises many friends is that I shy away from sushi. Not that I don’t like it. To me it’s that I fail to see the there, there.”
Be sure to pay Orinoco a visit soon to taste Andres Branger’s Venezuelan food!
477 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118
22 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02445
56 JFK St, Cambridge, MA 02138
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