Matt Taylor of Market Street Kitchen on Robert McGrath, Brad Thompson, and the Trend He Hates (You'll Be Surprised)
Buchanan Matt Taylor on the patio at Market Street Kitchen
Market Street Kitchen
20825 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale
This is part one of my interview with Matt Taylor, executive chef at Market Street Kitchen. Come back tomorrow when Taylor dishes about John Besh, his experience with Michael Mina Group, and his favorite Southern restaurants.
Do you remember how great Metro Brasserie in Old Town was -- particularly in its first year? If you loved eating French bistro food with a Southern drawl, then you loved Matt Taylor (a 23-year-old at the time), who was put in charge of menu creation -- not to mention running the place -- by Metro owners Fred and Jennifer Unger. They were smart to do it. Young as he was, the kid had chops and showed loads of promise, despite the restrictions of the semi-classical, faintly Americanized fare he was asked to dish out. When Taylor left a year or so later for Vegas to work with Michael Mina Group ("the big boys" as he calls them), a few of us in the food community were crushed, feeling as if we'd lost the sort of up-and-comer our nascent food town would have benefited from keeping.
Buchanan The dining room at Market Street Kitchen
Taylor came back to Phoenix in 2011, spending a year at Noca before moving up to Market Street Kitchen to work with his friend and mentor Robert McGrath late last summer after taking a months-long hiatus to decide (in his words) "who I wanted to be when I grow up." Put in check by health issues, McGrath stepped down a month or so ago, and restaurant owners Keeler Hospitality Group put Taylor in charge. He's rolling out a new menu -- with plenty of subtle Southern inflection -- any day now, remembering the staid, crab cake-eating North Scottsdale audience he has to play to but sneaking in a few distinctly edgy dishes whenever he can. "We don't tell them it's boudin," Taylor says, "we just call it a sausage, and then they're fine with it." He's also slow-cooking whole animals on the outdoor rotisserie and doing all sorts of wild and wonderful things with them: making head cheese from goat's meat and tartar from lamb.
How did this former Canadian come to embrace Southern cooking so completely? His restaurant career started in high school, when Taylor became a dishwasher for Canadian-based Earl's, moving up the cooking ladder over the course of two summers. During his senior year, he moved to Scottsdale (where his mother lived) to finish high school at Saguaro, enrolling in the EVIT program in 2000. He worked under SCI grad and Mary Elaine's alum Suzanne Perrotto at Wrigley Mansion Club before moving to Mosaic to work with another talented, nationally recognized female chef Deborah Knight .