As a teen, then cyclist Matt Accarrino encountered a traumatic bicycle accident which changed his dream of becoming a world-class cyclist. Finding himself in bed, recovering from multiple surgeries, seeing his dreams of the Tour de France wiped away, he watched tv. Glowing images of Jacques Pepin and Julia Child filled his days of bed rest. After watching episodes of Emeril LaGasse’s show, Matt wrote him a letter and let him know that he admired his work. Emeril wrote him back. He asked him to join his team in Louisiana.
Upon his journey from New Jersey to Louisiana, Emeril saw promise in young Matt. He sent him to Chicago to work with Charlie Trotter. After a bit of time with Charlie, he found his way back to the East Coast. Hyde Park, the CIA, graduated this young budding chef at 19. Matt Accarrino went on to work for Thomas Keller and Tom Colicchio, among other famous chefs.
I learned all of this story first hand, from 34 year old Matt Accarrino this evening at Studio Gourmet’s chef showcase at the chic open kitchen space Circolo. What a fun night! A personal cooking lesson and demo of cold smoked trout with a sophistocated fingerling potato salad and pickled shallots. Matt gave the crowd some of his kitchen secrets and technical overview of cooking methods like sous vide. His mise en place was high end, with oils and vinegars in little squeeze bottles that looked more like art vessels than kitchen tools.
After the up close demonstration, Brad Lev of Studio Gourmet interviewed Chef Accarrino in a relaxed table setting. The audience was enwrapped in Matt’s stories about his childhood and kitchen experiences.
Matt brings an undeniable East Coast culture to his perspective as a chef. He seems dazzled by the Bay Area’s local organic farms and counts these fresh ingredients as the subtle crux to his successful menu at SPQR. More than once, Matt underscored the difference in working with produce from the multiple growing seasons, here in California, as opposed to the seasonal offerings of local ingredients available to NYC restaurants. Describing the necessity for techniques to make ingredients taste good, he resonated pure delight in the access to Bay Area produce and meats. These same ingredients that were flown or driven to the Manhattan restaurants where he was employed.
Following the interview, the audience indulged in small plates of cold-smoked trout dish and tender chocolate macaroons with caramel filling. A sweet finish to this San Francisco chef showcase.
Matt Accarrino has a cookbook coming out later this year. It will focus on applying smart industry tools like the cold smoking apparatus to the home kitchen repertoire.
Studio Gourmet’s next chef showcase will be a husband and wife baking team. Whoever could they be?