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Todd English, Chef, Olives, Boston, MA

Stay home, show-offs, snobs and elite freaks: Olives is not for you. Todd English created this 52-seat Boston restaurant for people who love good food and wine, but aren't interested in studying every leaf of raddichio on the plate. "When we (he and wife, Olivia) opened this place about a year ago we wanted a high energy restaurant that is loud and fun; where people come to enjoy the food and those they're with; where aromas fill the air; and large platters of food are part of the landscape."

English, who cut his teeth at La Cote Basque in New York and Michela's in Cambridge, talks about Olives like a proudfather. After all, this is his first baby, and the resemblance is unmistakable. Olive's kitchen is open, and the smoke from three wood fires taunts those in the dining room. But that's more than all right when you see "big hunks of meat" on the rotisserie, and roasted fish coming out of the brick oven.

His rustic French and Italian cooking style, which gives birth to items such as grilled leg of lamb sandwich with grilled eggplant, onions and red pepper, has helped Olives defy a New England economy that has made more than a few restaurants go the way of Michael Dukakis. English admits he took a big risk opening a restaurant in the face of a recession, but said fear and the desire to control his own destiny propelled him along.

English has defied the odds by racking up sales of $1.2 million based on five nights a week (no lunches served.) Olives is doing so well it will expand into an adjoining storefront space later this year. While rustic cooking is "very in" right now, English says the future of his cooking and American cooking in general, will focus on a more health conscious menu. "Todd isn't doing anything fancy. He's cooking honest, down-to-earth food. And there isn't a young chef cooking in Boston who could touch him," says fellow Bostonian Jasper White of Jasper's.

TAGS: Food & Drink