Matt Dawson of Brandt's Cafe in the Delmar Loop, Part 2
This is part two of Deborah Hyland's Chef's Choice profile of Matt Dawson of Brandt's Cafe. To read part one, click here. Part three, a recipe from Dawson, is published here.
Deborah Hyland Matt Dawson prepares duck tacos.
Did your family cook when you were a child? To be honest, not so much. I grew up poor, and dinners typically consisted of Hamburger Helper. As soon as I was old enough to see over the stove, I wanted to cook, just so I could start making better-tasting food.
How old were you when you started cooking? I think I made my first attempt when I was nine or ten. I started with simple things, but my creativity quickly got the better of me, and I would find myself throwing anything I could find in the kitchen together to see how it would taste.
First cooking job? My first cooking job was when I was fifteen and was at a Boston Market. I was the guy who worked the rotisserie and carved the chicken. From there, I bounced around a lot like most teens did, working whatever kitchen job I could.
Did you attend culinary school or college? Yes, I did. I graduated [from] L'Ecole Culinaire over off Highway 40
What do you eat? I think the better question is, what don't I eat? I'm not sure if there is an answer to that question. I eat pretty much everything and love to experiment with new combinations. My happiest days tend to be when I discover a new way to make my favorite recipes or a new ingredient to reinvent something I've been playing around with for years.
What do you cook at home? I'm a steak-and-fries guy at home. Nothing makes me happier than to sit down with a fat ribeye, a big plate of crispy fries and a fried egg on top. And a nice bottle of Bordeaux, too.
What are your three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides your own!)? Niche, Monarch and Five Bistro.
The local chef who most impresses you? I'd have to say Gerard Craft. The guy's just impressive, and every time I go to Niche, I find yet another yummy thing I just can't help but love.
Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? Easily, my favorite would be Charlie Trotter's in Chicago.
Your favorite food city? New York first, and then Chicago. Both cities make the biggest headway in the world of food.
Favorite recent food find? I recently discovered eggs poached in duck fat. Amazingly tasty, and such a simple idea.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Passion. You can have the best, most expensive ingredients in the world, but if you are not passionate about what you are doing, then your food just tastes flat. And salt, of course. Can't survive in life without a little salt.