Roswell native Matt Meacham is the young chef making all the noise at popular Peach & the Porkchop (12040 Etris Rd D100, Roswell, Tel: 770.696.5409). He is smart. He is talented. And I caught up with him to get the lowdown on the Roswell dining scene.
Here is what he had to say:
Q: You grew up in Roswell and have cooked in the area for several years. Nobody knows Roswell better than you, from a culinary standpoint anyway. Do you have any thoughts and/or opinions about the Roswell dining scene and how it has evolved?
A: The Roswell dining scene I believe has changed considerably. I began cooking in this town in the year 2000, and here in mid 2015 I see vast growth. With the continuation of general food knowledge on the rise with the average diner, I believe that people are more demanding to know that what they’re putting in to their bodies is healthier and just generally better flavor-wise. Roswell has been growing considerably for a few decades now, and shows no signs of slowing down. I feel that people are turning away from the chain restaurant culture more and more, and are beginning to demand higher quality and less fluff. Lastly, with the influx of new families and new money all around us, the scene seems to be leaning towards targeting younger people with updated culinary ideals.
Q: What are the biggest challenges being the chef at a Roswell restaurant as compared to an intown restaurant?
A: The primary challenge I see between being a chef in the suburbs as opposed to ITP, is people’s preconceived notion of what “upscale” is. Sometimes the average consumer may be a little less willing to try something new to them, so it must be presented in a bit more of a rustic fashion. I feel that being a successful chef means that you’re able to give your customers what they’re asking for, as opposed to cooking to your ego. I have a wondering mind, so sometimes it’s hard to reel it in, but that makes it a challenge for me, and I have always appreciated a good challenge.
Q: Peach & the Porkchop is a very casual restaurant. How important is it today to be a laid-back restaurant?
A: I think that being a laid-back restaurant is great, great, great. I was speaking with a friend recently about how disappointing it is when you sit down in a very nice restaurant with an amazing dining room, and when the food hits the table, it’s just OK. Maybe even borderline bad. I think it’s a much better scenario to create a warm and laid-back atmosphere and let the wow factor happen on the plate, not the intense visuals of the room you’re sitting in. I also feel that in that case, you’re paying for what it cost to build the place, not the food you’re being duped in to. Not to mention, a lot of the pretense that is commonly associated with high end foods is beginning to fade. Some of my favorite restaurants in the city, ITP or OTP, have less stuffiness and more emphasis on just serving something wonderful.
Q: Which chef(s) have inspired you most as a chef?
A: I always have thought of one person in particular when asked who inspires me in the chef world, that person being Chef Efrem Cutler with Outback Steakhouse International. He is their Corporate Exec Chef in charge of overseas menu development. While that may sound like an odd answer, it’s easily the right one. When I worked for Outback years and years ago now, he would always use my kitchen as his local test kitchen for new items. He defined professionalism and passion for his tasks at hand. He taught me about the mother sauces, and what it means to dedicate yourself to something. Everyday was a new lesson. He always made sure I learned something when he was around, and that sentiment has always stuck with me. As far as chefs I have not met, I really appreciate the work of Michael Mina, Sean Brock, Charlie Trotter, and Thomas Keller to name a few…
Q: What can we expect from you and Peach & the Porkchop restaurant in both the near and distant future?
A: Our restaurant is going to continue to grow and grow, slowly but surely. I believe in taking things one step at a time, as to not lose your footing. As I continue to grow as a chef, the food and culture in our restaurant will continue to evolve. In the near future we will continue to discover our strengths and weaknesses and adjust accordingly. Like I said previously, there are a lot of new families all around us, and I can’t wait to serve them and hopefully make a lasting impression that will guarantee our success for years to come.