We thought we’d get together with some of the brains behind the brussels to talk shop and give you an idea of where we come from and where we’re headed. Today we’re talking with Executive Sous Chef Matthew Dorough.
We’ve mentioned before in recipe videos that we like to lean into seasonal and local ingredients as much as possible – what are you looking forward to for the coming spring menus in terms of ingredients?
Spring is a great time of year for ingredients. You start to leave the warm, hearty and comforting winter dishes behind and look forward to a revitalization of fresh, lighter ingredients. I think when spring rolls around, every chef in the area is most looking forward to ramps! I went on my first foraging trip last year and it’s a pretty amazing experience. They are so versatile and we like to use them in as many ways as possible for the short period of time they’re available. Local asparagus, spring peas, radishes and rhubarb will surely play a part in our upcoming menus as well.
It seems like there’s always a host of new ideas on every menu – how does a menu item go from an idea to planning to the final plate, and what does that process look like?
Menu creation is a large part of what we do, and we like to keep it a collaborative effort at Chestnut. The first step of creating our monthly menu usually begins in the middle of the month with a meeting between the chefs. We pick each other’s brains and come up with a rough draft. We take ideas from our cooks as well and see where we can place them. Next comes sourcing and costing. We try to obtain as many ingredients as we can locally, so that we can have some added value on the final plate for our guests as well as support our local vendors. Lastly, we have a menu tasting before our monthly launch. This is where the entire staff comes together to critique our menu. After we make any suggested tweaks, it’s good to go!
Where does inspiration come from when you make food? Is it books, movies, life experience, etc?
For me personally, inspiration can come from many places. I have a lot of cookbooks that I refer to, as well as reliable sources online. Social media can be a great place to gather inspiration as well. I also like to play off of family recipes I grew up with, because after all, food is love. The more personal touches you can put on your food, the better it will be.
If there were three pantry items that you could never do without, what do you think they might be?
This is a tough one, because there are really so many! My three staple pantry items would be onions, chicken stock and good quality olive oil. Onions are a must have in my kitchen, because they are the base of practically everything I cook. One of my favorite smells in the world is simply onions hitting a saute pan. Of course, it’s nice to make a large batch of homemade chicken stock and freeze it for a rainy day, but I always have a back up in my pantry. It’s another hugely versatile ingredient that can be used for soups, braises, sauces, and the list goes on. Everyone typically has olive oil in their kitchen, but quality matters here. Just a touch of some nice olive oil to finish a salad, or drizzled over a pan seared fish with a little bit of lemon juice goes a long way.
What new restaurants or food concepts in town are on your radar right now?
This isn’t a new restaurant by any means, but I went to Chai Pani for the first time a few weeks ago and was blown away. I love Indian cuisine and it’s a shame I hadn’t visited sooner! Little Chango just opened up downtown and is headed by a Culinary School friend of mine, so I am really excited to give them a try as well.