chef, chatting fabulously, Stan Matusevich, executive chef, interview, eating fabulously
Chef Stan Matusevich
Life is sooo funny, fabulous eaters! You just never know who you are going to meet, whats going to happen, and you definitely  never know where you are going to end up. This interview shows all of how life can be fun and amazing. I met Chef Stan Matusevich almost 2.5 years ago at a restaurant that I joined when a friend called and said he needed a lead line cook. I was looking for a more challenging job in a new restaurant anyway, so of course I didn't hesitate to help out. Stan, was the executive chef at the restaurant, but was transitioning to leave for another venture. I met Stan when he started training me on his station that I would take over once he was gone. Nervous of course, Stan assured me that I would be just fine. Life switched on us, when Stan left the restaurant, along with my friend and I, yours truly  stepped into Stan's previous role and I became  Executive Chef a couple months later.  While I was executive chef, Stan would come by sometimes, and continued to re-assure me things would and will be ok. Now, with the tables turned..again, where life has allowed me to interview Stan and see what the chef has been up to, his take and personal opinions on my favorite foodie topics, and what hes got coming up next! 

CS > What is your current job title? 
Stan Matusevich > I currently hold the title of Executive Chef for MP Taverna and FishTag restaurants.

CS > Where did you get your education?
SM > Well, I choose a different path. Most of my culinary education came from working in restaurants, dining out, and reading. I never took the time to attend culinary school. The financial investment and the time it would take to complete culinary school, I just never seemed to have. It precluded me from having a formal culinary education. 

CS > Where have you gained your experiences from, and which one has best shaped you into the chef you are today? 
SM > My resume is long and varied; I’ve been working in NYC restaurants since the mid 90’s. A good chunk of that time was spent treating this industry as just a job, just a way to make money, however there were certain restaurants that showed me the beauty and art of culinary creation. Across the Street restaurant by Eli Zabar was opened with a Chez Panisse alumni and shaped my understanding of sourcing; we did nightly changing menus from incredibly sourced ingredients, cooking in a variety of cuisines,  covering most of Europe. My next defining moment came at La Grenouille restaurant in midtown, under Chef Daniel Orr. This was the first time that I cooked in a real French restaurant in a rigorous and demanding environment of a traditional brigade kitchen and system.  The classic French menu and the sheer volume that we put out from that kitchen helped focus my thoughts on organization and efficiency. I then went on to work at Town restaurant with Geoffrey Zakarian and Cedrik Tovar. Seeing the creation and the creative aspect of opening a 3 star restaurant really opened my mind to the possibilities of modern cooking. I’d say that was the moment that I started paying attention to the food and the business of the industry, the crafting of menus, the intense concentration on proper techniques and utilization of “accents” that transformed a few key ingredients into beautiful and delicious plates. But I would say the most crucial moment in my development came from working under Kenny Addington at Bette restaurant. Kenny’s creative process has remained an inspiration to me till this day. His dedication to proper technique and presentation has shaped my thought process on the business ever since. 

shrimp, avocado, persimmon, pomegranate, salad, eating fabulously, chef,
Chilled Shrimp x Persimmon x Pomegranate Vin x Avocado 

CS > I feel like there are pros and cons of going to culinary school. Do you think culinary school in this day and age is as important as it was say 10-20 years ago? 

SM > I’ve always felt that with the culinary school you get out of it what you put in. Much like with any schooling. With new techniques and avenues opening up in the restaurant industry I think that schools have become more important than before, however it can be just as important to put in time in restaurants that use these techniques in order to learn their application in the real world. I’ve seen great cooks and chefs come out of very secondary schools like Peter Kumps back in the day, and really mediocre ones come from powerhouses like CIA and Johnson and Wales. That being said, if a cook truly loves what he/she does, their education and inspiration will come from all around them.

CS > Do you think social media {twitter, facebook, instagram, etc} are killing the essence of cooking and what it means to be a chef? 

SM > Absolutely not, as annoying as blogging and yelping can be to restaurateurs and chefs, these platforms also tend to push a lot of us into a spotlight allowing us to put our best foot forward without waiting for a newsprint reviewer to come by and put their stamp of approval on our efforts. While there’s certainly a diluting effect on the industry as a whole, there’s definitely a boost to it as well. There are a whole slew of modern chefs who wouldn’t have experienced the exposure that they did if it wasn’t for the boom and shift in social media

fish, sturgeon, beets, ginger, caviar, paddlefish, eating fabulously, chef
Grilled Sturgeon x Beet Ginger Puree x Beets x Paddlefish Caviar 
CS > Do you think female chefs will ever sit comfortably and confidently at the boys table? 

SM > I think that by and large women chefs can sit comfortably at the “boys table” now, if they chose to. There are prime examples like Amanda Cohen who does wonders with vegetables at Dirt Candy; Emma Hearst who created one of my favorite Italian restaurants Sorella, Stephanie Izzard, Anita Lo, Jody Williams, Missy Robinson, April Bloomfield. You know, just to name a few who can give any male chef out there a run for their money. 

CS > How do you feel about food trends? (i.e farm to table, smaller restaurants, big name chefs opening places in up and coming neighborhoods)

SM > Anything that evolves this business is good for business. With the restaurants being under more and more scrutiny by guests to innovate and change on a consistent basis, these trends are necessary. Granted, trends in general tend to reach a saturation point much quicker than they ever used to before, largely because of the social media and the near constant need to bring new concepts to bear, however that brings a freshness to our industry unseen in such quantity before.
smoked, octopus, mushrooms, chorizo, potatoes, sausage, eating fabulously
Smoked Octopus x Confit King Trumpet Mushroom x Chorizo x Smoked Potato Skordalia 

CS > What were some of your biggest mistakes coming into the game as a new chef? 

SM > My biggest mistake and my biggest regret was not having a full understanding of the business aspect of running a restaurant. My impression as a young chef was that the food was paramount and overriding all other concerns. I had a nebulous idea of what food costs and labor costs were, and what it entailed to run a profitable restaurant; and I definitely ran into this issue blind and head first a few times, but like most mistakes, I eventually learned and understood the confluence of factors that make for a successful restaurant.

CS > What is your advice for the young and eager chefs of tomorrow? 

SM > Simply put, eat and read. There’s a glut of first rate restaurants opening all over NY, and it’s almost a cook’s duty to go out and try these places. Sure, it becomes an expensive hobby, but there’s really no substitute to experiencing meals in these restaurants first hand; and the inspiration that this can provide is immeasurable. It’s the same with cookbooks, more and more cookbooks detail advanced techniques and more importantly, thought processes of these amazing chefs, and it’s borderline a CRIME not to take advantage of it.

CS > As a chef, we are around food all the time. Where do you dine for a delicious no fail meal that is up to your standards?

SM > As a chef, most of my meals are eaten after work, and as a rule that usually means destinations like Hagi Sake Bar, Wonjo Grill in K-town, NY Noodle town, Sorella, Trayf and some others. I definitely have a predilection for Asian food late night after a day in the restaurant. 
bacon, Greek, sausage, potatoes, tomato, breakfast, eating fabulously,
Country Skillet x Bacon x Greek Sausage x Potato x Tomato x Warm Pita 

CS > Whats next for you. What can we look forward to from you? 

SM > Well, I will continue working for the Michael Psilakis group which is on a pretty big expansion track. There are a lot of new and exciting projects coming down the pipeline that will keep me busy and definitely challenge me for a yet.

A great big Eating Fabulously Thank You to Chef Stan! 

MP Taverna                                                                                   FISH TAG 
3 Locations :                                                                         222 W. 79th Street
~Roslyn, NY                                                           btwn. Broadway and Amsterdam 
~Irvington, NY                                                                     N.Y. , New York 10024
~Astoria, NY                                                                                212.362.7470

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