We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Lewis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
Constant study and skill development has been the biggest boon to my professional career. When I first started working in serious professional kitchens, I would go home and listen to lectures or watch videos about cooking. In culinary school, I held down a work-study job that kept me in the library. I would pile stacks of culinary books in front of me, just for the pleasure of learning as much as I could. As a professional, I deep dive into regional cuisines for months at a time; playing with recipes and developing my own style to incorporate these new dishes.
The result is that I can offer my clients a wide array of dishes from all over the globe. I have competencies from every continent that has more people than penguins. But the kicker here is that it’s all “play” for me! If learning and development was drudgery, I would struggle to make myself study new things. Instead, my professional development centers around satisfying my own cravings; both literally and intellectually. I don’t think I would be as successful if I had chosen a career path in which I wasn’t genuinely passionate and always wanting to learn more. A famous chef Fernand Point once said, “In cooking, once is a student all his [or her] life.” For me, the joy of being a chef is the joy of being an eternal student.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn and develop my professional skill set in some amazing environments. My resume includes graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, where I was awarded the Brillat Savarin Young Professional Medal of Merit. I’ve had the chance to work under incredible chefs like local legend Kevin Rathbun, the trailblazing Farm-to-Table Dan Barber in the kitchen of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and the James Beard winning Zak Pelaccio of Fish and Game.
When it came time to start a business, I wanted to shift into something dynamic and flexible. I launched my services as a freelance chef first in NY, then moved back home to Atlanta once I saw how quickly it could grow. My clientele has been so great to me, and I love being able to focus all that I’ve learned into making their lives more delicious. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in the homes of Atlanta’s business leaders, and even some local athletes like Braves legend Chipper Jones.
My business focuses primarily on providing clients with a set of meals each week, designed by me to meet their individual needs. No two clients are alike, so I am not the same chef on any day of the week. I am proud to offer a diverse menu each week for them to select from or simply make “cravings requests.” Meals are designed so that the clients just pop some entrees and sides into the oven, heat up on the stove, or toss together a salad in a bowl. My convenient service lets them enjoy adventurous meals they may never try in their own homes, ranging from fresh seafood dishes to soul warming braises, hearty casseroles, or technical “craveables” like Ramen.
I recently got the opportunity to help coach new chefs looking to break into this market. It’s been awesome getting to help talented culinary professionals shift into a career that lets them take the reins of their own future and build a business of their own. I look forward to expanding this side of my business in the coming year and offering more consultation opportunities for aspiring freelance chefs.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a chef, any Atlanta itinerary would revolve around food. No way around it, first stop is Buford Highway. We would hit the BUHI classics like Northern China Eatery for soup dumplings, El Rey del Taco for tacos with handmade tortillas, Woo Nam Jeong for Korean, Shoya Izakaya for Japanese, and Masterpiece for Szechuan from a Chinese Certified Master Chef.
For some ITP staples, we would definitely need to hit Kevin Gillespie’s Revival for my favorite Mac and Cheese and cornbread ever. His Gunshow is always such an awesome experience too. On the high end, Lazy Betty has consistently featured such a great chef-driven menu and Omakase by Yun with the sake tasting is such a treat.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I just began my fourth year of serving as President of the local Atlanta Chapter of the USPCA, a national personal chef association. We are a local organization that bring personal chefs together to network, share job leads, and engage in learning opportunities. When I first began my business many years ago, it was amazing to have a group of people to help me on my journey and I am thrilled to be able to give back to the organization today.
It is often said that the rising tide raises all ships. Even though we are all technically competitors, we in the Atlanta Chapter of the USPCA come together to grow and develop our businesses and professional skills. We are very fortunate that Atlanta has a wide array of opportunities for freelance culinary professionals, so our businesses are quite different from one another. We share leads, talk about our experiences, strategize for how to grow our businesses, and sometimes just have a glass of wine and a fantastic meal together.
You can find our organization at www.atlantauspca.com.