Industry Insiders: Chef Kevin Long, Travelin’ Man

Kevin Long stretches his expertise over state lines on a daily basis. He serves as executive chef at both SHRINE Asian Kitchen, Lounge and Nightclub at MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Scorpion Bar, located in Foxwoods Casino. Long also heads the kitchen at Tosca and Caffe Tosca in Hingham, Massachusetts. Humbly starting his career at family restaurants on Boston’s South Shore, Long rose to work alongside one of his idols, Thomas Keller, at The James Beard House and the Park Avenue Cafe.

What’s in a typical day for you? A lot of my days are consumed with driving, as the restaurants are two hours apart, and I oversee all of the operations in the kitchen, menu development, sourcing, and trying to keep connected with the food.

Commuting alone sounds like a lot of work. I’m a workaholic … I never really think about it, but I’m very passionate about my work: one restaurant is a high-end Italian, very creative. The other is fun Italian, another is an up-market nightclub and the last is a Mexican restaurant. And I can pick and choose what to eat every day!

How’d you get your start? I’d gone to college, working for a computer science degree, putting myself through in kitchens. I hated washing dishes, but got into the cooking very gradually — one of those things that started when I was 16 and got to prep the food in a small, local restaurant, and then it became what I was interested in.

When did you realize cooking was your passion? When I was starting out, I worked with some great chefs who exposed me to different aspects of the business. I love to travel, I love to eat out. Every time I walk in the wilderness, I see food. It’s amazing how it becomes your life, whether you’re looking at food on television shows or perusing a small town’s restaurants, I couldn’t imagine doing something else. There are people out there who hate themselves and their jobs, and I just thought, I’ll never be that person.

Go-to spots? I love The Violet Hour in Chicago, it’s off-beat, hip, really great. In Nantucket, I like Corazon del Mar. To go to Boston and visit my roots, I like Locke-Ober under Chef Lydia Shire. It’s Kennedy’s Boston, so fabulous … just sitting at the bar is a little getaway.

Other chefs you admire? Any chef nowadays calls on Thomas Keller, who has been a massive inspiration; I’ve had the luxury of working with him, and he’s just one of these guys who is going to be known forever as the modern day Escoffier, one of those guys who recreates everything in modern restaurant. The guy branches out and still maintains the quality.

Worst part about the recession in relation to dining? Something unhealthy — I hate to be a dark cloud — but the market right now has constricted people’s wallets which makes it tougher. Everybody wants lavish dining. It’s so much fun for us to produce it, but it can really put a damper on the cost-conscious.

Something people might not know about you? Everybody thinks I’m a monster, but I’m really quite approachable, a very nice guy. It’s just that I have an intimidating air in the restaurants.

What gets you through tough days at the restaurants? I love streaming radio and can’t get enough of it. It’s very hard for me being so busy working seven days a week. I don’t have time to manage my iTunes, so this is at your fingertips, instant gratification. It’s really quite a ride for me.

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