We’re sneaking behind the kitchen door again for our fifth post in the Industry Chats series and this time we’re snagging some time with Chef Daniel Raia of Sweet Cheeks Q to get to know him better. The king of short ribs, Chef Raia’s culinary repertoire expands way beyond Texas barbecue, although he has mastered the art of it. He has lived and breathed restaurants since he was 13 years old, beginning his journey as a dishwasher growing up in Massachusetts. He completed culinary school at the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America and has worked under some of Boston’s most well-known chefs.
Chef Raia opened Sweet Cheeks Q almost six years ago as Chef de Cuisine with Chef-Owner Tiffani Faison. The dynamic duo has also recently collaborated on Tiger Mama, a funky spot just down the street from Sweet Cheeks serving South East Asian food and offering two tiki bars. His passion for cooking combined with his work ethic is unparalleled. No matter what he cooks your tastebuds are bound to explode!
Crostini with house ricotta, country ham & Georgia peaches
5 Questions with Chef Daniel Raia
What do you eat late at night/early morning after a long shift?
“Usually after a long shift, I raid the leftovers from the family meal shelf in the walk-in. Sometimes that’s a dud. That’s when I crave late night Chinese. I haven’t been getting there much lately, but Dumpling Palace on Mass. Ave across from Berkeley is great. Open till 3am, great value, and the soup dumplings hit the spot. They also have this Taiwanese fried chicken that is like crack. Peach Farm in Chinatown is also an old standby, Debbie is the best. Live S&P shrimp, clams with black beans, and beef with sour mustard greens.”
Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
“In life? Still haven’t figured that one out. In kitchens/restaurants—Tiffani Faison and Kelly Walsh. They are amazing. I’ve worked for them for almost eight years. They have taught me so much, and I continue to learn everyday. Not just in the kitchen, but how to run a responsible business that is good for everyone— customers, community, and employees. They are charitable, giving, and a pleasure to work for; and Tiffani’s food is some of the best in the city.”
Six-foot sandwiches for family meal at Sweet Cheeks Q
What is your one go-to dish that you can make in your sleep? Who taught you to make this dish?
“Late spring, early summer is my favorite time to cook. I love cooking fresh pasta with any of the amazing vegetables that are available in the spring: peas, ramps, asparagus, wild mushrooms (morels are my favorite food of all time!). My go to is pesto with these vegetables. I’ve learned different versions of pesto from three of the best chefs I’ve worked for: Jody Adams, Dante DeMagistris, and Tiffani Faison. My version is a combination of all three, but closest to Tiffani’s. I like to change up the nuts/cheese depending on what vegetables I have on hand.”
Heirloom tomato salad
What is your favorite dish in Boston?…Not from your own restaurant.
“That’s a tough one to narrow down to just one……here are a few:
Fried squid or Brusells sprouts at Sarma
Cherry pepper pizza at Picco
Omakase at Cafe Sushi
Any pasta at La Morra
Kielbasa at Sycamore (when they have it)”
Are there any foods you hate?
“Lima Beans……childhood trauma I think.”
Sweet Cheeks Q is a staple in the Fenway neighborhood, and Tiger has quickly become a local favorite as well. Be sure to pay Sweet Cheeks and Tiger Mama a visit soon to taste Chef Daniel Raia’s food!
Sweet Cheeks Q
1381 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
1363 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
Looking for a great gift? Give a gift of food and fun!Tags: fenway, industry chats, off hours, sweet cheeks, things to eat in Boston, tiger mama
Return to Boston Food and Fun Blog