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What Chew can do: Inside Cambridge's newest food lab

Chew mural on an interior wall
Chew mural on an interior wallAdam Melonas

It feels like we’ve been waiting for David Edwards’ Kendall Square food lab for eons (currently claiming to be open this month). While it’s been cooking, Chef Adam Melonas has plated his: Chew on Western Avenue between Central and Kendall.

A supine carrot adorns the lintel. Inside, the carrot theme persists. Windows spanning the entire sidewalk allow passersby to peer inside – but Chew is not open to the public. It’s a testing ground for Melonas’ and his clients’ breakthrough food ideas.

“We’re here for radical innovation and reimagining of food – not improvements on the fringes,” explains Melonas, whose energy and enthusiasm for his work are infectious. “Half our business consists of partnerships with food company clients. The other half is for our own ideas… Our only caveat is that we won’t take a job that we don’t think will make the world a better place.”

Chew consists of a test kitchen that from the entrance appears to be a restaurant kitchen, but isn’t. A huge high table (orange, of course) with ample view into the kitchen serves as both conference and tasting space. This Examiner hopes at some point it will also act as a Community Table. A lounge area and bar complete the “front of house.” From the street, what invited guests see is spacious, creative, funky, and inspired. “Back of house” is workspace for Chew staff – Melonas has hired upwards of 15 mostly culinary experts – storage, and kitchen equipment.

Melonas is a food-precision expert. “You’ll hear a lot of alarms and timers going off here. That’s because we’re monitoring temperature to 0.1 degree Celsius and our scales are accurate to 0.01 of a gram.”

In Melonas’ view, food is about experimenting over and over again until the recipe is perfect. Then it’s about flawless execution every time. In his previous life, Melonas was executive chef in a number of the world’s best restaurants, where he would orchestrate 24- or 36-course meals. “You don’t want 36 chefs preparing 32 courses, 36 different ways. Food is black and white,” he asserts. “There is no grey.”

Melonas’ precision will pay off for food companies (some of his clients are massive) looking to reimagine the future of food. He’s excited to be located near Harvard and MIT and all that Cambridge and Boston have to offer in terms of talent.

While Chew will never be a public space, the public may be able to find ways in. This Examiner hopes to be one of them.