Meet Matthew Simpson of Montecito

Everyone knows that the best parties always end in the kitchen. With our series, Kitchen Party, we’re sitting down with Feast On Chefs to get to know them, and the local foods that inspire them, a little better.
Chef Matthew Simpson 2018

Matthew Simpson

Montecito

Toronto, Ontario

See their Feast On profile here!

What’s your favourite seasonal ingredient?

My favourite seasonal Canadian ingredient is definitely Saskatchewan button chanterelle mushrooms. They are so small and perfect and versatile. They are great sautéed but they also make a great pickle. If we are talking only Ontario, it’s a toss up between corn from Welsh Bros. farm and the spicy greens mix from The New Farm. Corn is one of those things that you forget how amazing it tastes until it comes around again. The spicy greens mix from The New Farm is something we look forward too all year. I know on the surface it might seem strange to list lettuce as a favourite ingredient but this lettuce is on a completely different level! It’s so flavourful and crunchy you almost don’t want to dress it. The preparation too, from all the lettuces being grown separately (totally organic mind you) and then picked and washed and sorted, all by hand, makes for a truly special product.

What’s your drink of choice?

Depends on the situation/venue. I am a total locavore when it comes to food, the same can be said for my beverage choices. For the most part I drink beer. My favourite breweries are Burdock, Blood Brothers, Beau’s and Great Lakes… but I also have a soft spot for Labbatt 50. If I’m drinking wine, I love sparkling and those who know me know, it’s rose all the way. My favourite is the Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catherine. Non-sparkling, my favourite varietal is Cab Franc, which grows well in Canada. My favourite wineries are Norm Hardie, Ravine Vineyards and Pearl Morissette. 

What’s the most underrated ingredient?

Flour. I had no idea the difference freshly milled whole grain flour makes until I visited Mark Hayhoe at K2 Milling. Flour was something of an afterthought for most of my career but now K2 Milling has opened my mind to a world I didn’t even know existed. The flour he produces in simplest terms is a completely different product, from taste to nutrition level to structure. It really is something unique and beautiful. It can be a little bit more challenging to work with but ultimately that makes the end result that much more rewarding, and more delicious.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

There’s no way I could pick one because again, it totally depends on the mood, type of outing and whether I’m here or visiting another city. In Toronto, I love Dandylion for a date night, El Trompo for some cheap and cheerful Mexican, Famiglia Baldassarre for lunch and Bar Isabel, if I want to do a later evening kinda thing. I love travelling to eat as well. A few notable places for me are Nora Gray in Montreal, Baest in Copenhagen, Le Mary Celeste in Paris and Husk in Charleston. I am super inspired by the mantra at Husk. When I ate there a few years ago, it helped solidify my ideals about locality, seasonality and sustainability.

What does your perfect weekend in Toronto look like?

My perfect weekend in Toronto, granted if I can ignore all of my adult responsibilities and assuming my apartment is clean and laundry done etc. would look like this: Getting up and grabbing coffee and something to eat from my local coffee spot Conta Cafe (they carry Blackbird Bread which is my favourite!). Then an afternoon spent record shopping or bumming around Kensington Market and stopping somewhere quick for lunch like ramen at Hokkaido Ramen or sushi at Sushi on Bloor (one of the first places I went when I moved to Toronto). Then, depending on who was around, I’d love to go cocktail bar hopping since I’m really into cocktail culture. I also love to entertain with my roommate. We might go to Fiesta Farms and have people over to our house. We’d eat, listen to music and just hang out. We have made some pretty epic home meals. The second day would be more relaxed. I’d go somewhere for brunch, over eat and have a couple morning cocktails before heading back home to just chill out. Maybe watch the Simpsons or something on Netflix and then order Maker Pizza for dinner.

What’s the best part of working with Ontario food and drink?

I always answer this question the same way and I feel like I always will. The main reason I feel this way about local food/local suppliers is not because it’s “cool” to do so but because the relationships that I have built over the years are infinitely inspiring. To meet people that care as much about growing/creating/producing as we do about cooking is such a blessing and reminds us on a daily basis why we do what we do. Our restaurants couldn’t exist without them and we do our best to celebrate them on a daily basis.

Why is Feast On important to you and your restaurant?

Feast On is important to us not for the reason most people would think, that is to self promote and “pump our own tires” as it were. I am proud to be Canadian, first and foremost and proud to be from Ontario. I love where I live and I want to be able to express a certain feeling of terroir in the restaurant of this amazing place. Feast On helps us connect with even more people who are passionate about local food and allows us to hopefully broaden awareness of local food culture and get involved in more events and things that surround it.

Fill in the blank: “If I entered a competitive eating contest, I’d definitely win if the item was _______”.

Pizza. I know it can be pretty heavy to eat that much bread, but I have been training my body to consume pizza for years, haha.  
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