Interview with Chef Matt Gordon

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Matt Gordon and Scott Watkins are the founding partners of Urban Solace Restaurant. The opening of the Urban Solace in 2007 was a dream turned to reality for the two restaurant veterans. Matt Gordon, the Executive Chef, specializes in classic American food made with high quality ingredients for Urban Solace’s clients. He believes in having fun and doing things ethically. Chef Gordon took time to share with us his passion for cooking and answered a few of questions about his life and experience.

FE:  Your restaurant does something very special with sustainability, can you give me a little more detail?

MC: We feature a modern take on classic American dishes as well as feature a menu based completely on sustainable seafood, responsibly raised meets, and seasonal items in a scratch kitchen.  We are committed to using the best products available to create our unique menu. Our meats are all naturally produced; hormone and antibiotic free; our seafood selection adheres to the Monterey Bay Aquariums Seafood Watch list “best choice” items, our Eggs are from Eben-Haezer and we love our friends at Specialty Produce for commitment to local farms and organic veggies.  We hand make all of our flavored syrups for our cocktail list and have a large selection of either sustainable, organic or bio-dynamic West Coast produced wines on our list.  ALL of our bar and menu items are prepared without the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup and we are the first San Diego Restaurant to feature Boylan Bottling Company’s all natural soda on tap.

FE:  You have quite a culinary history, what are some of the places you have worked at?

MC: Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar, Healdsburg, CA, Festivities Catering, TKA Catering, San Diego, Scott’s Seafood, San Jose, CA, Flea Street Cafe, Menlo Park, CA, Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. San Francisco, CA, Beaver Street Brewery and Whistle Stop Cafe, Flagstaff, AZ, Oregano’s Bistro, Scottsdale, AZ and Marriot Camelback Inn, Paradise Valley, AZ

FE:  Did you cook growing up?

MC: I didn’t really grow up cooking at home… not until high school when i began to cook in restaurants

FE:  Who in your life has influenced your cooking the most?

MC: Two chefs I that worked for in my early days certainly molded my thought process.

FE:  What made you decide you would become a professional cook?

MC: I can’t stand offices!  Though I never went to culinary school, I have been in the industry since I was 15.

FE:  What misconceptions do people have coming into the field?

MC: Well, I think in the modern age of communication it is based on how fast you can truly “become” a chef.  Or that you’ll end up on TV.  It takes so many years to hone skills in this industry that cooks need to understand that it should be a ten year process to work your way up into a true position of creativity or leadership.

FE:  Best cooking tip for a novice?

MC: Think outside the box a little.  Make recipes from good cookbooks and when you have them mastered, change them.  Add to them or use different ingredients to get a feel for what happens when you think for yourself!

FE:  Which three cooking tools or gadgets are your favorites?

MC: microplane, a very good left handed singled sided Japanese blade, spice grinder

FE:  Funniest kitchen incident?

MC: hmmm.. everyday something funny happens in my kitchen. Though we are serious about our cooking, I try to keep it playful and keep a solid banter going throughout the shift.  It HAS to be fun.

FE:  Favorite food to cook with?

MC: Changes all the time.  recently i have been experimenting with cheesemaking and tofu making.

FE:  When at home, what do you like to eat?

MC: my wife makes killer taco’s and it fun to eat with the kids.  15 little bowls of different stuff laid out with everyone fighting for the cheese.

FE:  Your favorite cookbook?

MC: Culinary Artistry… not really a cookbook per se but a great tool to utilize when pairing ingredients together.

FE: Is there a specific etiquette in your kitchen that you pride yourself in?

MC: As i mentioned before, it’s very important to me that cooks enjoy coming to work.  This is not a silent, serious kitchen.. we play rock and roll and yell over it at each other.. it’s a verbal kitchen, meaning the cooks themselves don’t see the tickets, only the chef.  Everyone goes home hoarse each night from the constant calling back and forth of what’s cooking and plating.  Nothing can be plated that you wouldn’t be proud to serve to your Mom.

If you are not in San Diego and want to taste Chef Gordon’s creations, you can try his summertime favorite: Watermelon Tomato and Cucumber Salad

6 oz  cubed seedless watermelon

2 oz English cucumber (peeled, seeded and diced

2 oz sweet 100 tomato halves

½ oz arugula

1 oz feta cheese

½ oz toasted pine nuts

½ oz plumped currants

2 tsp basil-mint chiffonade

3 oz pomegranate vinaigrette

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

1 Tbs minced shallots

1 Tbs Dijon mustard

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup lime juice

1/8 cup honey

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

2 tsp ground coriander (toasted first)

2 tsp kosher salt

1 pinch ground black pepper

2 cups vegetable oil (preferably a blend of canola and olive oil)

Place all ingredients except oil in a container.  Emulsify, adding oil slowly.  Taste for seasoning and label and store.

Urban Solace is located at 3823 30th Street, San Diego, CA  92104 619.295.6464

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Blanca Valbuena
I am one of the co-founders of FriendsEAT. Obviously, I love to eat. Other passions include A Song of Ice and Fire, Shakespeare, Dostoyevski, and Aldous Huxley.
Blanca Valbuena
Blanca Valbuena

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