Brian Corcoran of Tambo 22 in Chelsea, MA on Pandemic Challenges and South American Wine - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Brian Corcoran of Tambo 22 in Chelsea, MA on Pandemic Challenges and South American Wine

Tambo 22, a Peruvian restaurant in Chelsea, Massachusetts, opened just weeks before the first pandemic lockdown. Owner Brian Corcoran looks to push forward and innovate with an emphasis on South American wine and cuisine. 

What has been the most challenging part about your job in the past year, and what has been the most rewarding?

I would say the most challenging part has just been all of the different restrictions that continue to change by the week and just the fluctuations of business between new variants of COVID. We had to keep adapting, and we were forced to close a few times because different members of our staff had COVID, and so it was just like a rotation of moving parts. It’s also been challenging because we’ve had so many slower times of the year now, so I’ve had to lay off a lot of staff. That’s definitely been a challenge as well. The most rewarding part would probably be to continue to just survive and build something that hopefully will be there for years to come even through all the challenges.  

How have the customers responded to the dining experience in this past year?

I think it’s really mixed. We have a patio now, so things are better during the summer and the spring, but then when the weather gets cold and people are afraid to eat inside; that can be tough. 

Some customers feel really concerned about eating indoors and we’ve definitely seen a shift to a lot of people that prefer to sit outside. Even right now, we have a few outdoor igloos at our restaurant that, even though it’s freezing out, people are still sitting outdoors. That’s been pretty cool to see. I think that will just be a big trend moving forward in the industry, which has already been happening in Europe over the last few years, and now the U.S. is starting to kinda follow that.  

How would you describe your wine list? 

I always let people know that our full wine list is all South American. We’re a Peruvian restaurant, so we focus on South American wines, and all of our wines are also either organic or biodynamic. We really care about the quality and what goes into each bottle. We like to work with a lot of small producers.  

Uruguay wine surprised you with its performance this year. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?  

We work with Bodega Garzón from Uruguay, and we’re offering their albariño, which is a nice dry white wine. A lot of people aren’t familiar with it, but where we offer all South American wines, we don’t carry a Pinot Grigio. So, I substitute, I recommend that for people who typically drink a drier white wine, and people have just been really curious. A lot of people will say to me, “Oh, I didn’t even know they were making good wine in Uruguay.” It’s something different than people are kind of grasping onto, and once they try it, they usually love it.  

On future projects

The Tambo lab is a project that we were working on with MIT and their Fab Lab, which is a research group from MIT. They also have a location in Lima, Peru, and we’re a Peruvian restaurant. We’ve been working with them on innovating food and doing a few different projects. We’re still hoping—obviously COVID interrupted our progress—but we’re hoping to do some projects of different things, where they’re actually going to do a green wall in the restaurant, and we’re gonna grow herbs that you would normally only be able to grow in Peru. The scientists at MIT have found ways that we can create an indoor environment where we can grow those Peruvian herbs inside our restaurant. That’s just one of a few of the projects that we’re working on with them. 

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