The Chef’s story: Pete Smyth of Slice of Life

Peter Smyth, chef and owner of Slice of Life in Oak Bluffs. — Photo by Kelsey Perrett

The Island has no shortage of restaurants, and behind each one, there’s a top-of-the-line chef. The Times decided to get to know these epicurean wonders and will share their stories each week. We started with Pete Smyth of Slice of Life on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Smyth arrived on the Island 10 years ago and has been the chef at Slice of Life for five years.

How did you come to be on Martha’s Vineyard?

My wife, Jenifer, grew up here. I met her at a restaurant we both worked at in Boston, Julia’s Kitchen in Brighton. Two people my wife knew were going to open up a restaurant here. That fell through, but we decided to move here anyway.

How and when did you start cooking?

Age 18. I went to culinary school and just stuck with it. I knew I wanted to be in this industry since I was 15 or so. I remember watching a lot of the old cooking shows like Julia Child and Jacques Pepin and just really understanding food. I watched what they did and came to understand French technique. I liked the idea that they were making it a little more approachable for most people.

How did you come to work for Slice of Life?

I was sous chef at Café Moxie with Austin Racine. I’m used to working a lot of hours and decided I needed a morning job. Slice of Life had a position open for breakfast cook. Then I came on here full-time one and a half or two years later, basically to run the line. The owner asked me if I wanted to become the chef here. I agreed, and five years ago I took over as owner.

What was the best food you ate in the last week?

I have to say it was a New York strip steak dish that I made here. Everything was seasoned right; I was just hungry enough. Everything just seemed to make a lot of sense and it all went together.

What is your favorite Martha’s Vineyard dining memory?

When I first moved here, the friends I made through Café Moxie, we used to go out to eat once a week. There were probably six or eight of us and we’d go to restaurants we always wanted to try.

What are your top five indispensable ingredients?

Salt, butter, garlic, cream, and black pepper.

Your favorite kitchen tool?

Any chef will tell you, it’s their chef’s knife.

You have two daughters, ages two and seven. What do you cook for them?

They’re very much into meatballs. We have a policy in our house: they have to try it. If they don’t like it they have to tell us why. Meatloaf and hamburgers might be made from the same product, but they’re two different versions. Honestly, meatloaf tastes nothing like hamburgers. I don’t like certain foods and I can tell you why I don’t like them — whether it’s the taste, texture, or whatever. I want them to be able to tell me.