Chef Michael Scelfo has been drawn to the kitchen for as long as he can remember. With a storied lineage of cooks who came before him, namely his mom who cooked professionally for years, the bug bit him hard at a young age. As a child, when he preferred being in the kitchen with his grandmothers and aunts, watching cooking shows and leafing through his mother’ cookbooks, his family knew he was serious.
As a graduate of Western Culinary Institute, he spent a few dedicated years as a wide-eyed young cook in the James Beard Award-winning Wildwood Kitchen in Portland, Oregon. Traveling and touring along the west coast, his love for creating vibrant, ingredient-forward dishes was nurtured.
A few short years later at the age of 25, he found himself receiving a 2½ star review in The New York Times while at the helm of Long Island’s sophisticated restaurant, Blond. Following that, he went on to expand his knowledge of neighborhood dining, overseeing the kitchens of several restaurants with cult-like local followings and bringing home many awards along the way, including Dedo, North Street Grill, Tea-Tray in the Sky and The Good Life in Boston.
In 2009, Michael took the helm at the Grafton Group’s neighborhood favorite Temple Bar, where his savvy use of whimsical, seasonal ingredients landed him critical praise, including the selection of his Merguez Sliders as one of The Boston Globe’s “2009 Favorite Things” and Best Restaurant – Harvard Square by Boston Magazine. He also introduced a Chef’s Vegetarian tasting menu that resulted in significant consumer and press interest; his passion for vegetables and lighter-style food will influence elements of the cooking style at Alden & Harlow.
In April of 2010, Chef Scelfo was selected as the opening Executive Chef of Russell House Tavern, the newest restaurant from Cambridge’s Grafton Group to open in the heart of Harvard Square. Balancing hearty tavern food with seasonally inspired sophisticated dishes, his menu at Russell House Tavern skillfully catered to locals, industry and out-of-town visitors, affording Harvard Square a unique dining experience. Built on strong partnerships with local purveyors, Chef Scelfo’s menu constantly featured contributions from Verrill Farms, Fiore di Nonna, The Food Project, and Island Creek Oysters, among others.
Under his purview, Chef Scelfo won many awards for Russell House Tavern, including a glowing two-star review from The Boston Globe. His six-course, nose-to-tail dinner in partnership with Brambly Farms was mentioned on CBS News in a discussion of whole-pig preparations in some of the best kitchens in the country. The signature dish of Russell House Tavern, the crispy, soft-poached, Chip-In Farm egg was labeled one of the 10 New Food Icons in Boston Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants issue 2012. The restaurant was named the 2012 Best Restaurant – Harvard Square by both Boston Magazine and The Improper Bostonian. In 2013, he was the victor of the Boston Lamb Jam competition, hosted by the American Lamb Board. And in 2013, Chef Scelfo was crowned the “Prince of Porc” at the multi-city heritage pork competition Cochon 555.
While cooking in Cambridge, Michael took the time to really examine his personal culinary perspective: if given the opportunity to take off the reigns and cook for people in a restaurant of his own, what would he make? He found the answers in his home kitchen, surrounded by his wife and three children. Creating a medium in which people connect with other people is what Chef Scelfo excels at – and his serious style does just that. Incorporating elements that have personal meaning while weaving together family recipes with his own, translates into simple, elegant dishes that he would want to eat with his family at home.
At Alden & Harlow, Chef Michael Scelfo takes this idea and figuratively extends his family’s kitchen table into his first owned and operated restaurant. Located in the iconic Casablanca restaurant space in Harvard Square, Chef Scelfo pays homage to his roots, making each ingredient shine, and ultimately, cooking from his heart. The success of this formula is proven in the attention the restaurant has received. Boston Globe restaurant critic Devra First awarded Alden & Harlow a three-star review. They were honored to be the Best New Restaurant by Boston Magazine and The Improper Bostonian as well as being chosen as “The Best of the New” in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. They were also highlighted as one of the Best Restaurants in the Northeast by Arrive magazine. Lastly, in 2015, Alden & Harlow was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Awards in the Best New Restaurant category.