Growing up in Elmira, New York, Josh Berman wasn’t your typical seven-year-old kid – he loved eating raw oysters. Suffice it to say his enthusiasm for food was established at a young age, and a career soon followed suit, beginning with earning a degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University, a stint cooking in Italy, and then, every chef’s dream – working the line at a Michelin-starred restaurant. It was there, at New York City’s Del Posto, that he met his wife, Nancy Martinez, also a talented chef.
After relocating permanently to Rhode Island and having two children (now ages five and eight), Berman worked at Restaurant Bouchard and the Revolving Door in Newport, and Gracie’s in Providence. But like so many in the hospitality industry, Berman had a change of perspective after COVID. “I learned that I liked cooking in peoples’ homes, in a more intimate and personal setting,” he says. So, in 2020, Berman and Martinez started their own business – JB Cuisine Personal Chef Services, and then opened Little Fish, a food truck serving tacos, ceviche, spicy lobster rolls and other locally sourced handhelds.
Everything is made from scratch by the couple and their team, right down to the salsa verde and the tortillas, with an emphasis on sustainability. “I focus on fish that aren’t meeting their quotas, such as scup, flounder, ocean perch, and yellowtail sole,” Berman says, listing varieties that aren’t overfished. Little Fish frequents farmers markets and other outdoor events, and you’ll often find Berman there perusing the farm-fresh ingredients, finding recipe inspiration at every turn.
When not working the food truck circuit, Berman is feeding customers in their homes, at intimate parties and events. On a recent warm summer night, for instance, JB Cuisine set up at a client’s Newport home for an outdoor soiree. His website makes it easy for potential patrons to envision their event; you can choose from themes such as a Japanese izakaya-style menu of small plates, brunch spread, cocktail party, or the whole fish menu centered around the stuffed seasonal catch. “I love doing parties for 50-100 people,” says Berman. “It’s fun and fluid, and there’s an element of fine dining to it, but without the pretense and the sky-high prices.”
Berman loves cooking good, fresh food, and wants to make it more accessible. “I’ve worked in a lot of fine-dining restaurants, but I eventually got frustrated because my friends couldn’t afford to come and eat my food,” he says. “Food is about community. You want to be able to give people great, fresh, local food at a price they can afford.” At home, Josh focuses on the same ideas. “I’ll get some beautiful stuff at the farmers market, and my whole focus is getting it on the grill with some protein.”
Berman and Martinez’s ventures are a huge hit with customers, and they were able to pay off their loan on the Little Fish food truck in a couple of years. Occasionally, Berman feels nostalgia for his restaurant days, cooking for hours alongside other chefs at a fierce pace. He left his most recent gig as chef de cuisine at Gracie’s on excellent terms and with much admiration for owner Ellen Gracyalny and her team. “Every once in a while I’ll go back for a guest stint in the kitchen,” he explains. “You know, just to make sure I’ve still got it.”
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