Chef Chat: Matt Alleshouse, Tommy V's
The 29-year-old, currently the head chef at the newly opened Tommy V's, has been in the Valley for more than 10 years. He got his start as an intern at the Biltmore, eventually moving up to head chef at the resort's upscale Wright's and working with Smith Hospitality, which owns several Valley restaurants and banquet halls, including Stoudemire's Downtown and Bar Smith.
While Alleshouse admits he feels pressure to succeed as a young chef, he says he thrives on the excitement.
"Some days, you're going to fail, but you're going to learn from it," Alleshouse says. "For me, it's about challenging myself. When you're that much younger, you're able to take that time and grow that much longer in your industry."
The Italian has always had a passion for cooking, dating back to the first meal he created in the kitchen: pancakes, when he was 9.
"We were always that family that sat around the table and had dinner together, and I think that carries my spirit and has driven me to treat my guests like my family members and my friends, because they are," Alleshouse says.
Indeed, diners at Tommy V's may watch Alleshouse in action, as he works in the open kitchen. There are even a few seats directly next to the cooking area, and Alleshouse happily talks to patrons while he's working.
Alleshouse has a lot of experience--he started working in a professional kitchen when he was only 14 in Canton, Ohio, before moving on to the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts.
His current endeavor, Tommy V's, is a partnership with owner Tomaso Maggiore, also of Tomaso's restaurants in the Valley. The project started four months ago as a less expensive, to-go concept, a complement to the fine dining in Tomaso's. But ultimately the idea became a full-service restaurant, which opened only a little over a month ago. Tommy V's is housed in a former bakery next door to Tomaso's at 32nd and Camelback Road. The bar offers a daily happy hour from 5-7 p.m. with $5 cocktails and wine and $3 beer.
The restaurant serves an Italian-American menu, including a selection of pizzas. While Alleshouse doesn't consider Italian cooking his specialty, he says his Italian roots are a constant influence in his old-school technique.
"Italian cooking is not something you can cut corners on," Alleshouse says. "When you do it, you have to pour everything in it. For me, it's being able to take those great, traditional flavors and make them my own, make the presentation a little more modern."
Alleshouse spent 2 ½ weeks in Italy this past spring, eating and taking notes, which inspired his current menu. He plans to ensure the menu is ever-evolving and has already changed the menu twice since opening.
Besides focusing on making Tommy V's a strong neighborhood presence, Alleshouse also hints that there's another project in the works within the next year and says he'd love to open his own restaurant.
"I'm very passionate about my industry," Alleshouse says. "I'm very passionate about cooking, number one, and that's what's gotten me here. I'm passionate about our guests having a great time, and I'm passionate about our staff delivering the food, themselves and the restaurant in a way that's inviting and shows the amount of effort we all put into it. It's not just flicking on the lights every day. There's a lot of work that goes into it."
And he hopes that Valley diners take notice. While he characterizes the Valley's dining scene as strong with a large variety of options and quality chefs, he also encourages diners to take responsibility in creating a culinary environment that rivals cities such as Chicago, New York and San Francisco, by spreading the word about great restaurants.
"Now it's time to latch onto the things they like the most and boast about those things and be active," Alleshoue says. "If you go out and you frequent a restaurant you love, play that active role. Be that salesperson for it, whether it's talking about it on the Internet or telling your friends or strangers."
Check back on Chow Bella tomorrow for a recipe for Tommy V's Tomato Caper Halibut.