Chef William Kovel Reels Us In
BY VICTORIA ABBOTT RICCARDI
It’s a hazy fall morning and I’m perched on the North Scituate Jetty with William Kovel, chef-owner of Catalyst, wondering why he’s so jazzed about dangling his pole in the salty blue sea. With a sandworm hooked on his Penn reel—the BMW (3 Series) of rods—he stares out at the rippling water hoping to snag a bluefish, striped bass or even scup. I have a vested interest in his catch, not only because I’m looking for a little action on these rocks, but because whatever he hooks will be my dinner back in the restaurant that night. While we fish, we discuss the whys of fishing: no horns honking, no cell phones ringing. He also tells me his dad taught him how to fish in Point Judith and that it’s the thing he and his twin brother do together—he even declined a topless bar in favor of fishing for his bachelor party two years ago.
Later that night I meet Kovel and his staff at Catalyst, which the chef says he built so guests can relax in the elements of nature, just as he does when fishing. Live grasses fill pockets of a steel partition; reclaimed barn wood forms the tables and wall art; and a fire burns in the lounge area. When I ask if there is a water element, Kovel chuckles. “We have the bar, and it’s a great watering hole,” he says, referring to the sleek slab of polished black granite set with stools.
So what fish did Kovel serve me? Lemon sole served over roasted baby fennel and silken leeks in a Vermouth butter sauce with warm nuggets of sweet lobster. Truth be told, Kovel didn’t catch the fish. But it was the kind of fish he could have caught—pristine, local and abundant—had he been lucky that morning. In the end, fishing for Kovel isn’t about hooking the big one.
“If I don’t come home with a fish, I’m not disappointed,” he says. “I do a lot of catch and release because I believe in letting my future kids and their kids enjoy fish.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOEL BENJAMIN