Alan Sternberg Creates Dishes Out of the Blue at Cerulean

The restaurant’s new chef blends the familiar with the experimental.
Raised on a steady diet of potpies, casseroles, and “traditional American whatever,” Alan Sternberg has worked in kitchens since his first job as a dishwasher at age 17. He went on to earn a renegade reputation at Muncie’s Restaurant 2 Oh! 4, where he insisted on making the pasta by hand; he then served as chef de cuisine at The Local Eatery & Pub and as sous chef at Mesh on Mass before taking over Cerulean’s head-toque position in May. There, he can do what he loves most: experiment with clean flavors and modern presentation.
Sternberg’s take on the pork-and-bourbon trend, for example, was nearly poetic in its conception. “It kind of hit me,” Sternberg says. “What makes up bourbon? There is some smoke in there. There’s sweetness. There’s spice. And there’s the corn mash.” Combining all of those elements, he ended up with a pork chop in a sweet smoked-tomato broth with shishito peppers for some kick, fried polenta representing the corn, and a spritz of orange bitters to bring the dish back to its cocktail roots. “Then, we thought about where in the world you might find all of these flavors,” he says. At that point, his dish traveled to Spain, finished with some littleneck clams and capers—a long way from the potpies and casseroles of his youth.
Alan Sternberg’s Favorite Things
(1) Osaka Sushi: “It’s a lot of fun to go out on a Sunday afternoon with my wife and find a little hole-in-the-wall that’s phenomenal.”
(2) Scratch Truck: “Matt [Kornmeyer]’s truck is my favorite in the city. The food is delicious, and we’ve become friends.”
(3) Pho: “I could eat it bowl after bowl every day. Viet Bistro is right by my house, but Egg Roll #1 is the best I’ve had in the city.”
(4) Charcuterie: “My dedication to pork will be with me forever. I have two pig tattoos, after all.”