Twelve Days of Chefmas: Matt Neele
While we love showing you delicious food 24/7, we also think it's important that you know who is behind the food you're eating. So, our "Twelve Days of Chefmas" series will introduce you to a dozen noteworthy chefs from across the state. That being said:
🎶 On the third day of "Chefmas," CT Eats Out brings to you... Chef De Patisserie Matt Neele of Community Table 🎶
How You Got Started In The Kitchen:
I started as a dishwasher when I was 15 at Union League Cafe in New Haven, and two months in I got a paid chance at Garde Manger. Then I went to the Institute of Culinary Arts in South Africa, and after graduating I put my nose to the grindstone, showing up day after day to a Relais & Chateau hotel/winery in Stellenbosch. Shortly after finishing my education and with a yearn for change, I came back to New Haven were I accepted a position at Heirloom in a new boutique hotel called The Study.
Eventually exiting the hotel world, I realized my forte was found in the small fine dining format; compact, concise, potent and precise. Knife bag in tow, I pilgrimaged to the Danish mecca, Noma, before making my way back across the pond to NYC, where I staged and/or worked at several spots including Eleven Madison Park, Corton, wd-50 and The Governor. It wasn’t until I wound up in the kitchen of Michelin starred Wallse that I began to put down roots. After developing a solid repertoire of my own, being sculpted and influenced along the way, and receiving an extra push from Chef Gutenbrunner, I opened Upholstery Store Food and Wine as their Chef de Cuisine. Here I exploited local and international ingredients alike, and showcased slices of all I had come to know and love in the world of food.
Eventually, I needed a much overdue break and was scared of burning out at only 24 years old. My good friend, mentor, and the newly appointed Executive Chef of Communtiy Table, Chef Marcell Davidsen called me. So now I am taking in the slow life and working closely with Chef Marcell and his team to make some of the best locally sourced dishes in the state of Connecticut.
Favorite Ingredient To Work With:
Having grown up around the world I had the greatest experience to have tried many different cuisines. Childhood memories still play a major part in who I am and what I favor in food ingredients. May it be fresh herring, or Dutch liqorice from my family's culture or incredible cape malay spiced dishes such as Bobotie from Southern Africa. To be honest this question is difficult and unfair. Cook with the best ingredients surrounding you and a dash of soul.
Favorite Menu Item:
Working at Community Table where we use local ingredients of the highest qualities, and have an ever changing menu this answer can change weekly. Currently our salmon 'everything bagel' (as I like to call it) appetizer and our very Scandinavian Christmas inspired Rice Pudding are at the top of my list.
Favorite Holiday Dish To Eat or Cook:
My mother and grandmother both make phenomenal poached pears with a spiced port wine reduction. I can say I have a bit of an obsession with it every year. The aroma alone makes me think of Christmas.
Restaurant in CT You're Dying To Try:
Having recently moved to Connecticut from NYC and being a true foodie at heart, I can't wait to book tables at Arethusa al Talovo, Millwright's, and Thomas Henkelmann.
Funniest Kitchen Story:
Having worked in the restaurant industry close to a decade now there are just too many stories to tell. Anyone that has worked in the industry can attest to this. It could be a waiter dropping a bowl of soup down the back of a guest, a celebrity being smuggled out the prep kitchen and having her gown dipped through chicken stock, the new pastry intern dropping a gluten free birthday cake 3 hours before the party of a president's daughter, you name it, it's happened. This list is long so bring wine.