Chef of the Month: Joyce Della Chiesa – Chef / Caterer, by Marge Chryssostomidis and Peter McNamara, November 25, 1992

“Where do jazz greats eat when they come to Boston? The answer can be found at the Della Chiesa residence in Boston’s South End, where Joyce Della Chiesa‘s guests have included Dave McKenna, Dick Johnson, Dizzie Gillespie, Stan Getz and Tony Bennett to name but a few. Luckily for the public at large, Joyce doesn’t confine her talents to cooking at home; from time to time she takes over as guest chef at Scullers in the Guest Quarters Hotel, where jazz dinners are a regular feature (she can also be found creating delectable treats at other jazz functions throughout New England).

Joyce’s background is half Italian and half Bahamian, which meant that from an early age, she was exposed to an unusual combination of cuisines. Her passion for food led her to the Orson Welles Restaurant where she met Odette Bery, one of the area’s most talented chefs. After working together for a year, they found a tiny spot in an unfashionable area of Cambridge and opened the Turtle Cafe on the proverbial shoestring, thus starting the trend that put Inman Square on the culinary map. Between 1971 and 1985 (first with Odette as co-owner, then with Nancy Madden), this fondly remembered ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurant provided a place where gourmets on a budget could experience wonderful and innovative food at affordable prices. Back in the early 1970s, the idea of using fresh produce was somewhat revolutionary, and this became a trademark at the Turtle, as was the regular featuring of vegetarian food. Several well known local chefs (including Gordon Hamersley of Hamersley’s Bistro and K.T., formerly of The Tam) have passed through the Turtle‘s kitchen at one time or another.

Eventually, Joyce wanted a change and gave up the Turtle, while retaining the catering side of the business. She also worked part time for a spell at St. Cloud. She finally found a solution that allowed her to both travel and cook, and this was to start a whole new career as guest chef. In between these stints, she is still involved in the catering business (at Jules Catering in Somerville), and with her husband Ron, hosts a radio show — Dining Out With Ron and Joyce, on Saturdays.

In October, the Della Chiesas led the first of what they hope will be many culinary tours of Italy. For now, Joyce says she is having too much fun to get back into the full-time restaurant business.”

-Excerpt and images courtesy of Boston Public Library, The Improper Bostonian, “Chef of the Month: Joyce Della Chiesa – Chef / Caterer, by Marge Chryssostomidis and Peter McNamara,” November 25 – December 8, 1992

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