From a young age, Stephen Oxaal showed the drive to make his dream of training under multiple James Beard Foundation (JBF)-recognized chefs and restaurateurs a reality. While attending the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, Oxaal got a taste of life in the professional kitchen through internships at the Brae Burn Country Club in Newton, Massachusetts, as well as Abacus in Dallas, Texas where he worked alongside JBF award-winning Chef Kent Rathbun and JBF-nominated Chef Tre Wilcox.
After graduating in 2005, Oxaal returned to Rathbun’s tutelage as a hand-selected member of the opening team for his second location of Jasper’s in The Woodlands, Texas. This experience ingrained in Oxaal a deep appreciation for cooking with hyper-seasonal ingredients, while the unique kitchen setup gave him the opportunity to train on a wood-burning grill and rotisserie, and try his hand at butchery. By Fall 2007, Oxaal longed for his New England roots and accepted a position behind the line at B&G Oysters, the nationally acclaimed Boston seafood restaurant from JBF award-winning Chef/Owner Barbara Lynch. The eager young chef proved his fervor and talent to Lynch, who quickly accelerated him from Sous Chef to Chef de Cuisine within two years. Responsible for hiring, training and mentoring all new kitchen staff, Oxaal also designed and executed lunch and dinner menus connecting New England seafood with Mediterranean cooking techniques. His job provided an avenue to build and maintain close relationships with farmers and purveyors, and further hone his butchery skills by breaking down roughly 200 pounds of fresh local seafood daily.
Eight years in the kitchen at B&G stoked Oxaal’s urge to keep growing within the industry, an opportunity he found with fellow Barbara Lynch Gruppo alum Garrett Harker (himself a JBF semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur), who tapped Oxaal as the chef of his latest venture, Branch Line in the Watertown Arsenal. Following the lead of Branch Line’s proprietors Harker and Andrew Holden, Oxaal has embraced the hallmarks of hospitality that the two are known for cultivating at beloved Boston brasserie Eastern Standard, and pulls from his own diverse experience to deftly navigate the neighborhood restaurant’s centerpiece rotisserie and wood-burning grill.