John Bourdeau serves up fresh, seasonal fare, exotic drinks, and a menu full of alternative selections for vegetarians and meatlovers at his hip restaurant.
Ever since John Bourdeau was 8 or 9 years old, he wanted to be a chef and run his own restaurant. He would read food magazines like Gourmet, and lots of cookbooks, learning as much as he could. Growing up on a farm in Woodbury, helping his parents raise cattle and other animals, he understood how important it was to begin cooking with food from the source. His parents also had a large garden with fresh vegetables, and they sold fresh milk. Later, John got jobs working in restaurants and learned on the job.
Bourdeau had plans to go to culinary school, but ended up working as a carpenter making a decent salary, while working weekends at a restaurant to keep learning about cooking. After working at a dozen or so restaurants, from fine dining to catering, and including a golf club, John finally reached his dream. It took him 20 years, but he did it. Three and a half years ago, he opened his own restaurant—Main Street Grill in Watertown. Like many well-known chefs before him, being motivated and driven helped him achieve his goal. “I love this industry for the people, the creativity, and the hard work,” says John. Having spent about 5 years working with his brother-in-law at Lucia restaurant in New Milford also gave John the know-how of running a business. He says it was a great experience.
How did he decide on Watertown as the location? “I felt that there was a need in the area as my wife Milly and I find our selves driving great distances for restaurants.” The location turned out to be a good one. His clientele comes from New Milford, Kent, Morris, Litchfield, Washington, Bantam, Woodbury, as well as Southbury, Middlebury and Waterbury.
The atmosphere at Main Street Grill is warm and inviting, as well as comfortable. It seats about 65 to 80 people. Great music is playing at a level where you can still have a conversation while having dinner. The space has a spare, modern look to it, a long family-style table in the center, booths along the brick wall, and smaller tables on the other wall. Tucked in the back, is a cozy craft cocktail bar where unique local ales, wines and spirits such as small batch liquors are served. Many of the beers offered are from Connecticut such as City Steam, Hartford, Two Roads Stratford and New England Brewing in New Haven; some wines are from Walker Road and Woodbury; and also from Litchfield Distillery in Bantam.
The menu has something for everyone – vegetarian, gluten-free, fish, meat, pasta… it looks like a very inclusive menu. John gave a lot of thought to it. “With the menu, I think that you may have four people going out together and one might be vegetarian, one may want seafood and another may be a big fan of steak.” The menu is a fresh-oriented menu. Everything is made from scratch. He doesn’t use a freezer except for ice-cream. Even the crissants used in their popular Croissant Bread Pudding are made from scratch at the restaurant. John describes the food he serves as New American Cuisine, with influences from all over the world. He uses ingredients from local artisans, mostly all-natural/organic food. “I have a great network of friends that own or work at restaurants in Manhattan and they just inspire me all the time. There is so much diversity in restaurants there right now that I can see something new and exciting every time I visit.”
Since he is known for his bread pudding and the pistachio cake at Main Street Grill, we asked him if he enjoys baking as much as cooking. He replied, “Yes I do. I opened the bakery program at Mateo Restaurant in Watertown when it opened. I baked all types of breads including focacia, Pullman loaves, baggettes and Italian loaves.”
When asked what the most satisfying and most challenging parts of the job are, John replies, “The most satisfying is when someone enjoys our food and the experience that we offer. It’s great when someone says I feel like we are in NYC but we are 10 minutes from our house. The most challenging is finding the time to do all the things that I would like to do like meeting new farmers and hosting specialty dinner events.
As for the future of Main Street Grill, John Bourdeau would love to expand the bar area and create a private area for small parties. And he continues to search out more local food and beverage supporters. For now, he is busy making delicious meals and serving a full house.
Hours are: Sunday: 11am–2pm
Takeout and catering are also available.
Main Street Grill
663 Main Street