A Culinary Adventure, From Gardens and Markets to Restaurants and Home Kitchens
May 2, 2012
08:52 AMLocal Flavor
In the Kitchen with Matt Myers
“For an Irish place I have a lot of chiles,” chef Matt Myers joked as he pulled a huge box of dried New Mexican chiles off the shelves in the prep area of Brocach on Monroe.
He dropped a bunch of them to a ketchup he was making, which boasted a zesty mix of spices, tomatoes, and a “&@*#-load” of garlic. His staff has jokingly nicknamed him “No-Half-Measure Myers” and his delicious food reflects his generous use of flavorful, fresh ingredients.
Chef Myers’ passion for building a great restaurant and living a full life is just as big. I recently joined him at the restaurant where he guided me through making the glaze for the rhubarb pork shoulder featured in the May issue of Madison Magazine.
Chef Myers worked quickly around me, grabbing cans of tomatoes, boxes of onions and a plethora of fresh rhubarb. With each addition of an ingredient his culinary vision materialized on the stove and table. In between the chopping, cutting and tasting, I had a chance to ask him about about himself and his work.
How did you get your start as a chef?
I always liked to cook. I wanted pancakes and French toast every day and realized I’d have to make them myself. I remember making a cookie for my mom for her birthday. I knew I had to turn the oven on, I knew there was flour and egg and peanut butter, and that you used a fork to make those marks. I made a mess, but my mom was happy. More formally, however, I trained under Daniel Mosedale and Matthew Porco, two renowned chefs from Pittsburg. It was Mosedale who first introduced me to concept of local food back in the ’90s. He ordered lamb from a nearby farm and knew everything about how the lamb was raised. That was the first time I really understood the concept and importance of using local foods.
How did you end up working at Brocach on Monroe?
I worked at the downtown Brocach for six years, took a break to work for Food Fight, then returned when Brocach offered me this position on Monroe Street, letting me have creative liberties with the menu and food. That’s the best thing for me; my happiness is worth more than tons of money.
How does Brocach on Monroe differ from Brocach downtown?
The focus is not only Irish [here]. We do offer shepherd’s pie and corned beef, but we also have the best spicy burger in town, we make mac and cheese and many other dishes. The focus here is locally sourced and freshly made. We make everything in-house including the sausage, aioli and the desserts.
What is your personal food philosophy?
My focus is get good ingredients and keep it simple. If you have good ingredients cooked well, that’s all you need.
Have you cooked with rhubarb before?
I never made a savory rhubarb dish. Who’s idea was that anyway? I first tried a rhubarb pork shoulder with a gorgonzola polenta and fried onion strings. It was very good, but super rich. I thought this variation [rhubarb-braised pork shoulder] would be good for a summer cookout. A ketchup or salsa would be good, too, or maybe rhubarb and goat cheese empanadas.
What are some of your favorite restaurant dishes around Madison?
I love tacos, and usually head to [Taqueria] Guadalajara or El Pastor if I don’t make my own. I think the Old Fashioned’s cheese curds are great. And I really love Sardine. Everything I’ve tried there is really exceptional. And Takumi by East Town; they have great sushi. The salad from Burrito Drive; it’s simple and good, especially with side of adobo chicken. I also like Culver’s cheeseburgers.
What don’t your restaurant patrons know about you?
I have two dogs. I love dogs. I cook a lot, I fix motorcycles. Sometimes I fix the motorcycles in our living room. My fiancée is really understanding. I always have to be working with my hands. I also want a pig farm. I want to let them hang out, eat grass. I’ll make bacon. And I want more dogs.
As Chef Myers assembled the sandwiches—first piling on the pork, then a heap of blue cheese, a handful of arugula and finally adding massive spoonfuls of homemade giardiniera—his crew came by for samples. One of his staff commented as the juices ran down our fingers and chins, “Sometimes you think, what is he doing? But it turns out amazing every time.”
Photo by Otehlia Cassidy.