Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Interview With Chef Jacob Hunter from Matchbox

Fashion District Flavors w/Chef Jacob Hunter of Matchbox


Chef Jacob Hunter of Matchbox literally wears his love of cooking on his sleeve–he’s got a vibrant, palate-stirring/palette-spanning array of food tattoos on his forearms, including a so, so scandalously delicious giant scanwich. And like a true Atlanta-ite, he references Outkast as one of his favorite groups, who often give nods to Atlanta’s rich culinary heritage in their lyrics ["And if you like fish and grits and all that..."].
Growing up in Atlanta, he was cooking with family from an early age–his Mom is Italian and he cooked BBQ and gumbo with his Dad. “In high school, I worked as a busboy and server and eventually, when it was time to go to college, I decided to go to culinary school because it sounded kind of easy–I hadn’t really thought about how much work and what long hours chefing is. It’s intense.”
After attending the Art Institute of Atlanta, Jacob started working with Levy Restaurants, a massive food group that works with most of the major arenas and stadiums. One of the perks of the job was getting to see concerts. Jacob rattles off The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Jane’s Addiction, Tool, Bjork, and his hometown Outkast as his favorites. After stints in Chicago, and travel in Florida, California, and Wisconsin, he joined McCormick & Schmick’s as executive chef. He was looking to move South until things went south with his girlfriend and he stayed in DC, finding a job with Matchbox as a sous chef. “I turned down a lot of money to start at what seemed like a lower position, but you gotta go with your gut, you know. It just seemed like the right move for me.” Working his way up, he is now an executive chef and also serves on the operations board, which allows him to consult on the opening of new locations.


“I still really enjoy cooking Italian, BBQ [we participated in the BBQ Battle last year and it was a lot of fun and a lot of work--there is an art to good BBQ], and Asian. I also really like putting a fine dining spin on comfort food, kind of like what Thomas Keller does at the French Laundry.” He laments the lack of a proper taco stand here in DC and cites Little Serow, Toki Underground, Mandu, Mike Isabella’s Graffiato, and small noodleshops in Chinatown as some of his haunts.
“Sandwiches are my favorite food and I love Scanwiches so much that I got one of theirs as a tattoo. I also have a beet, fried eggs, a pig, and utensils on my forearms. I plan on getting some peanuts, as well as bottle of wine pouring out a giant wave ala the stylized Japanese waves. I go to Butch at Champion Tattoo. Some of these he did totally freehand–like the beet one, he just drew on there with a Sharpie! I was a little nervous, but it turned out amazing!”


For Fashion District, Chef Hunter will be preparing a tuna tartare in a crispy rice paper cup [fry a rice paper wrapper normally used for spring rolls], with some sesame, sriracha, soy sauce, nori, and a diced apple and golden beet.

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