Matt Taylor of Gertrude's at Desert Botanical Garden: "It Doesn't Get More Arizonan Than This"
It's been about four months since news broke that chef Matt Taylor would be taking over the kitchen at Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden and since the initial announcement, we haven't head much from the chef or the restaurant. From the outside looking in, it would have been hard to tell there had been any change at all. The menu stayed the same and so did much of the staff.
But, as the chef explained to me last week, that's only because he was busy getting adjusted to a new kitchen -- while doing 1,200 covers a day.
"It would have been suicide" to make any changes during season, Taylor says.
But now that the season's over and the popular Chihuly in the Garden Exhibition is gone, Taylor's ready to start settling in and making the menu his own.
Those who's been around town for while will surely be familiar with Taylor's name and if they're lucky, with his food. Most recently Taylor was turning out rustic, wood-fired cuisine at Market Street Kitchen with well-known chef Robert McGrath. Taylor's resume also includes time as Executive Sous Chef for Michael Mina at the chef's restaurants in Las Vegas, working under James Beard award winner Bradford Thompson at Mary Elaine's, and serving as Executive Chef at the now defunct Metro Brasserie, where Taylor became known for his blend of Southern and French cuisine.
With experience in such a broad variety of restaurants, it's easy to see how Taylor will be a good fit for the year-old Gertrude's. And the chef has high hopes for what the restaurant can become.
Lauren Saria Lavender from the Gertrude's garden.
"We have a unique opportunity to be one of those unique Arizona restaurants," Taylor says, noting the destination location and immediate abundance of local plants and produce.
"It doesn't get more Arizonan than this."
As far as what diners can expect on the menu, Taylor says he plans to be seasonally-driven and will use what's in season throughout his menu. The goal is to change out the entire thing - with the exception of a two or three dishes - four times a year, though he may also make small changes more often than that.
The challenge will be provide food that's recoginable to tourists as "Arizonan," without backing himself into a corner. He'll do so by using local ingredients (like venison sausage and prickly pear) in dishes that aren't traditional Southwestern fare (like Bangers & Mash.)
Of course, you'll still see hints of the type of food that the chef's become so well-known for in this town: hand-cut pasta, Southern-influence fare, and some Canadian poutine.
"I guess it's kind of a hodge-podge of the past," the chef says of the new menu's style.
For the summer months the restaurant will be offering two menus, one for breakfast and one for lunch and dinner. But Taylor says he'll think about adding a separate dinner menu when season starts. For the immediate future, he'll be a bit busy planning for his wedding, which will take place in Kaua'i later this summer.