Chef Sam Olivari was born and raised in Gardner, MA. His earliest culinary memories are from his family’s frequent dinner parties, during which he would sneak lime wedges off of the cocktail bar and eat them whole. Olivari initially went to school for engineering at Wentworth Institute of Technology. While engineering gave him an opportunity to think creatively and visually, he wanted to pursue a career that was more visceral. Soon after, he decided to change tracks and give culinary school a try; he relocated to Hyde Park, NY to attend the Culinary Institute of America.
During culinary school, he started an internship at Blue Ginger restaurant. It was here that he delved into the culinary industry, and was responsible for all stocks, sauces, marinades and bases, handling an incredible amount of daily knife work, as well as cooking family meal for the entire staff of the restaurant every day.
In 2009, Olivari graduated from CIA and accepted a position as sous chef of Madalin’s Table, a restaurant focused on seasonal farm-to-table dishes in the Hudson River Valley. He took what he learned and came back to Boston a year later, this time delving into the beverage aspect of restaurants, accepting a bartending role at the distinguished No. 9 Park, a staple of Boston’s restaurant community. It was here that he was first introduced to Shore Leave chef and owner, Colin Lynch. While at No. 9 Park, a new, young bartender joined the team: Ryan Lotz. Olivari assisted as needed, and together they executed an impressive production.
Staying within the Gruppo, Olivari assumed the position of chef de cuisine and general manager at the cookbook shop come demonstration kitchen, Stir. From there, he explored Asian flavors while a line cook at Newton’s Little Big Diner. And most recently, he was part of the family at The Table at Season to Taste. These positions allowed him to learn the extensive and rigorous daily operations of both front of the house and back of the house teams. From creating cocktails to cooking and teaching, he became well versed in fast-paced environments that required creativity and precise skill.
Olivari looks to new chefs from around the world for cooking inspiration, learning about the heritage and culture of a place, and how that informs what cuisine and traditions are honored. It’s important to know where your food comes from, a perspective that was especially ingrained in him from a trip to Japan. He’s also a huge fan of comfort food, and loves riffing off of classic soul food dishes. Japanese comfort food in particular, which explains why on his night off, you can find him making his ideal meal: a bowl of rice, fish, pickles, veggies, chilies, nori, and crispy shallots.
His passion for this cuisine, and the culture and history behind the food and drinks, are prevalent in Olivari’s style of cooking. He loves getting deeply involved in whatever project or passion he’s pursuing; in his time off, it’s film. He frequents the movies three times a month, often with his wife, Mary. In his free time you might also find him skimming through the feeds of Eric Wareheim, Jeremy Fox, Dominique Ansel, and Ester, finding inspiration to bring into his many upcoming adventures at Shore Leave.