By John Hayden
Fresh seafood creations and a third generation recipe for classic comfort food. The menu at The Pub is pleasing all palates. The man with the creative culinary skills is Howard Fournier, better known to foodies as Chef Howie. He’s been making his mark up and down The Drive since arriving eight years ago, and now feels right at home inside The Pub’s increasingly busy kitchen.
Chef Howie has had a love of cooking since he was a kid in upstate New York, and he learned from the best. “My grandmother was a chef. As a kid I always cooked with her. She made everything.” And Howie is keeping her legacy alive in one of the restaurant’s most popular items. “I serve her mac and cheese here now.” It’s such a hit that he has to make three big batches every week.
After cutting grandma’s apron strings, it was off to Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. It was also around this time an encounter would change his entire life. Howie, then only 17-years-old, met the love of his life, Bob. “He worked at a bank and my sister was the bank manager. We met and we just stayed in touch, and here we are 39 years later.” Their partnership would eventually add a professional angle in Massachusetts. “Me and my partner had a bar for 17 years, a gay bar and restaurant.” But Boston winters can take their toll. “We decided to give that up and move to Florida.”
That was eight years ago. After working at a couple of spots on The Drive, in late 2018 Howie was lured to The Pub. “Michael (The Pub’s owner) was very persistent. He called, text, everything.” And that meant upgrading the menu to highlight his specialty. “My seafood. I’m a seafood chef. That’s pretty much all I eat. Everyday we have some type of seafood.” And there’s another tradition he carries on from his grandma’s kitchen from back in the day, “It’s all homemade, everything’s fresh. Fresh seafood.” Shrimp scampi is his personal favorite, but he’s also proud of the burger that bears his name: Chef Howie’s Burger. It’s black angus beef with mushrooms, cheese, garlic, and bacon. Howie says if he eats one piece of meat a month, it’s a burger at The Pub.
Once the pandemic hit, food sales skyrocketed with carryout orders, and people are still ordering, which has led to an unforeseen circumstance. “I just can’t find the cooks to do it. I’m here seven days a week.” Much of the time it’s just Howie, his husband Bob, and three other cooks serving up breakfast lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Besides long hours at The Pub, Howie also uses his skills to help the community. “I feed about 23 to 40 people a day out of donations and my own pocket.”
Howie and Bob are also a part of LGBTQ history. “We were the second couple in the state of Massachusetts (the first state to recognize marriage equality) to get married. Everybody knew us because of the restaurant.” He laughed as he remembered the day, laughing as he says the whole thing caught them off guard. “The guy called us. They came to us so they could have a newspaper story.” Howie says their customers were as happy as they were. “Straight people that were customers were coming to the restaurant congratulating us. It was a historical day.” Once they said their “I dos” they went to work helping others finally take the leap. Howie and Bob are both ordained ministers so they presided over lots of couples formalizing their unions.
Howie’s thrilled his fans follow him wherever he goes. Old customers from up north follow him on his three Facebook pages and make a point to stop in when they come down on vacation. But despite his popularity, Chef Howie says he has no plans to start his own place. After running his place in Massachusetts for 17 years, Howie and Bob are happy cooking and letting others deal with the business side.
The Pub starts serving at 10am, including all-day breakfast. Pop in and try some of Chef Howie’s creations, and if he gets a chance and steps out of the kitchen for a minute, give him a wave, he may wave back. “My cooking keeps me going. Chef Howie does care.”