Chef Molly Levine joins Behind the Bookstore

New chef Molly Levine — Elana Carlson

Another summer season has kicked off at Behind the Bookstore, and they couldn’t be more excited.The new chef, Molly Levine, hails all the way from the West Coast (via Nashville), where she worked at the ever-so-popular Chez Panisse. Through Island connections, she got in touch with manager Elana Carlson. (Like everything on-Island, word of mouth gets the best hires.) A collaboration was born between Elana, who manages Behind the Bookstore’s front-of-house, and Molly, chef and orchestrator of the back of the house.

The duo are hoping to create a unified system, one where the front and the back of the house work together to achieve goals. It’s not the usual way most restaurants work, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see it developing on the Island. A sense of camaraderie and compassion toward colleagues goes a long way. So if more kindness is what this world needs, why not start in the restaurants? Chef Levine’s latest experience at Chez Panisse brought her through the ranks in the three years she was there, working every station until finally reaching the main stage, to shine as lead in the kitchen.

Chef Levine describes her food style with eloquence. It’s all about how our bodies relate to food, and establishing a connection to Earth by sustaining ourselves. Her produce-focused menu this season doesn’t just rely on a culinary technique like braising or pickling, but on the actual ingredients.

Dishes like those listed below let each ingredient shine from the first bite to the last one. As you may notice, Chef Levine is sourcing locally as much as possible, spending her rare “days off” visiting local farms and meeting the men and women growing, harvesting, and fishing her ingredients. She tastes her way through cheeses until she discovers the ideal one to showcase on her menu. Previous concepts be damned, because if it tastes good, she’ll find a way to use it.

Some of the most recent seasonal offerings include:

  • Green tomato, beet, herb, and cucumber salad with Morning Glory greens and ginger-coriander vinaigrette.
  • Beetlebung Farm lamb burger, shoestring potatoes, Mermaid feta, pimentón aioli, spring onion and Padrón relish.
  • Roasted GOOD Farm half-chicken, MVM shiitakes, preserved lemon, roasted garlic and pea greens.
  • Spicy Menemsha mussels and clams, saffron, Pernod, tomato confit, and green garlic aioli.

Honoring New England while still bringing in influences from California and Tennessee, the menu reads like a delicious poem. And with a change of chef, there is a change of culture. The menu is created to guide you to the best pairings of ingredients, but you as the consumer ultimately have the final say on what’s on your plate. Substitutions are allowed, although I don’t encourage you to change anything before you taste it — it’s just too good to even play around with.

Behind the Bookstore is now open for dinner Friday through Sunday nights, beginning at 5:30 pm. Take a look at the entire menu at