Gerry Glynn of EatDrinkJax.com interviews Chef Medure.
Matthew's - Carpaccio of Kobe Beef with Local, Organic Vegetables and Beet Vinaigrette
6. How do you divide the responsibilities between yourself and your brother David?
David and I have always been partners. He worked at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island with me. He had been in college going to golf school and I visited him one day on campus and I said you need to go. So, in my 3rd or 4th year into being at Amelia Island he agreed to come work for me. He was totally taught on the line. He was all hands-on. He's an incredible chef now. We left together and opened Matthew's in 1997. We've always been such a great team. We bring different things to the table. A lot of times family can't work together but we've just found a way to do it.
Matthew's - catered salads
Photo courtesy of Kris Graham.
7. Who's the audience for Matthew's?
It's a small audience. We have a lot of repeat guests, but we don't have a ton of them. We do see new faces, and some become fans while others decide it's not for them. Matthew's is that place where some people really buy into it and love what we do and other people just think it's over priced and small portions. I don't know where that perception comes from. Maybe it's the larger chains who give you enough food that you can eat it for the next two days. I don't know. We just don't do that. We pay a lot of money for our products. I just brought in a halibut yesterday, from Nova Scotia. It was a $300 fish. I think people appreciate the quality but not a lot of people realize what goes into achieving it. I could have a lesser quality product for half that.
Matthew's - Albacore Tuna Carpaccio, Rice Loup de Mer Ceviche and Daikon Rice Roll
8. What would you recommend to a new customer to give them a sense of what Matthew's is all about?
Matthew's has always been known for its tasting menu. We started it on our first day and we still do it. We do a 6 course tasting menu called the Chef's Adventure. It changes every day. That's the creative outlet for our chefs. We use whatever is fresh that day. We'll get an email from a purveyor saying they've got an incredible rabbit available, so we'll take it. Or we'll get a call from our farmer in Ocala saying he has a purple ruffle basil that's in perfect form today, so we'll tell him to send it. A lot of times things will just show up at our back door. We have that sort of relationship with many of our suppliers. If they know something is exceptional we trust them to just send it to us. When we see what's available for the day we'll get creative with it. You get 6 items plus a little starter course. We pair it with wine for you. It's just a nice experience. It's a 2 1/2 hour experience that guest's really enjoy. I would recommend that.
Our times are changing too and we tend to re-invent ourselves. We've added items that we can put out at a reasonable price because people just don't have the discretionary spending they used to have. We're working hard to put more value on the plate. So, for example, we've come out with 8 new pastas. We hadn't done much with pasta and I thought it would be a great way to shine. I love cooking pasta. I wanted to do something that's really unique so I went and bought this machine that's a pasta extruder. Every day we make 8 different pastas by hand. As you know, that's not very expensive, it's just an art. So, we're able to put these pastas on the menu for a reasonable price and people enjoy them.
Matthew's - pasta
Photo courtesy Paul Figura.
9. Is the Chef's Adventure like a Chef's Table where you need special reservations?
No. We have a separate 4-seat Chef's Table. It's very popular. It allows you to sit at a special table and interact with the kitchen. You can order the Chef's Adventure from any table.
Matthew's - Filet
Photo courtesy of Paul Figura.
10. What would you recommend for someone who's been a few times and is looking for something a little different?
We have a few esoteric menu items that are a little different and very interesting. We have a red wine braised octopus with bone marrow. It's served with a home made radiatori pasta. People look at that and think "oh my god, I'm not going to eat that!" What I had to do was to get people to taste it. When they were at the Chef's Table I'd give them a little to try. Or I'd send it out to a table to get them to sample it. Once people taste it they'll love it, but it took a while to get them to try that first taste. We've had it on the menu since the early part of the year so it's pretty popular now, but it stretches people a little too.
Another item that can challenge some people is foie gras. We do it really well and we sell a lot of it between Matthew's and Restaurant Medure. If we took it off our menu we'd lose 10% of our customers.
11. Are there hidden gems on the menu that you really like but that don't get the attention they deserve?
We started doing some Crudos, which are like an Italian sashimi. They didn't go over really well but I thought they were some hidden gems. We would get really fresh fish and when we were filleting that fish we were taking the first, beautiful cuts of the fish, and before cooking it we were making these cool Crudos. Back in February we had 7 or 8 different Crudos. I think it was a miss though. People didn't react to it. So now we just offer a single option, which changes based on whatever's the ultimate in freshness. From my perspective I'd love to go to a restaurant that served Crudos, so that's why I created that option.
12. Have there been things that took off on the menu and surprised you by their popularity?
Yes, escargots! It's not a personal favorite but we found a great preparation and guests just love it. The preparation we do is with prosiutto, garlic, fresh herbs, a little bit of milk and parmesan. It's been on the menu for a long time because guests get upset if they come and it's not available. There are some items that have become our specialities, what we're known for. The foie gras, escargots and soufflés are all items that are staples of the menu that we could never take away.
13. Do you have a signature dish that defines your personal style of cooking?
That's a hard one for me because I don't have a personal favorite. My style is around the idea that the simplicity becomes the sophistication. I really love to braise items. I love to take items that are hard to eat and not usually very good and make them great.
14. What's an example of that?
Pork belly, pork shanks and veal shanks are all examples. Rabbit leg, duck leg too. A lot of times those types of items are hard to make taste good. That's part of the challenge I love. We do a really great duck breast, which is hard to make taste good. Guests have started associating Matthew's and Restaurant Medure with duck breast.