I Am Downtown Boston: Mary Dumont, Chef/Owner At Cultivar

Posted December 29, 2017 by Cheryl Fenton in I am Downtown Boston: Neighbor Profiles
Mary Dumont

When a horticulturalist combines cuttings from the best plants to create something exciting, that new plant is termed a “cultivar.” On a culinary level, you might say Chef Mary Dumont is doing just that – piecing together her best experiences to produce something exciting. That something is Cultivar.

Chef Dumont’s debut restaurant in the Ames Hotel combines her nearly decade-long stint as executive chef at Harvard Square’s classic Harvest with an extensive resume in restaurants around the country. With a proprietary hydroponic garden on-site she brings a hyper-seasonal menu of fresh produce, foraged ingredients, dry-aged meats and sustainable seafood in the most beautiful displays (think edible flowers). With a 2006 Food & Wine Best New Chef award already under her belt, Dumont recently won Eater Boston’s 2017 Chef of the Year. We sat down with her to find out how she has cultivated such a huge following.

TheVoiceofDowntownBoston: When Cultivar first opened in June, how were you received as the new kid on the block? We remember a ton of excitement.
Chef Mary Dumont: There was and everyone continues to be really great and supportive!

VOD: Why did you choose Downtown Boston?
MD: That view from our windows and patio is one of the prettiest in the city.  I love that we are at the intersection of history and innovation. There’s a strong mix of people with business, tourists, and residents right at our steps, which makes the neighborhood really desirable for new businesses.

VOD: What’s does winning Eater Boston’s 2017 Chef of the Year mean to you?
MD: Cultivar took more than two long years to open and a lot of hard work from everyone on the project. The award is really the icing on the cake and has made all the sacrifices worthwhile.  We’re a team and a family that has stuck together through a lot in a short period of time. I’m very grateful that our hard work shows.

VOD: Your food is visually stunning – edible flowers, brilliant colors, interesting textures. Where do you get your inspiration?
MD: A lot of my inspiration comes from growing up on the ocean and now from my walks in the woods walking my dogs before work.  I forage as I go and take advantage of the quiet time to let the natural world inspire me.

VOD: How have you seen downtown Boston’s restaurant scene evolve?
MD: Downtown has been evolving with some terrific restaurants in Downtown Crossing, Washington Street and down State Street. The great thing is that new renovations and development are on every block. Many of the older vacant spots are being renovated and redeveloped. Combined with a large number of residential buildings going up, it’s really breathing new life to Downtown.

VOD: What are a few of your personal favorite restaurants in downtown?
MD: Sam LaGrassa’s for sandwiches and Yvonne’s for a fun drink or two.

VOD: After so many years at Harvest, what’s it like to finally have your own restaurant?
MD: Any restaurant is the vision of the people that own it.  Cultivar is a very personal project for me and my wife – from the interior design to the food, and how we create our culture for the guests and staff.  We take our vision and ethos seriously, and my personal happiness level has certainly gone up since being in charge of my own destiny.

VOD: What’s next for you?
MD: I’ve certainly looked at additional projects and there will be others. Right now my focus is continuing to make Cultivar into an institution in Downtown Boston.