A traditionalist and an up-and-comer at once, 25-year-old Matt Taylor is probably the youngest executive chef around, and he's one of the most well known.
Taylor is a curious combination of discipline and ease, both a risk-taker and a culinary purist. Maybe that's how he got to be the head honcho at one of Scottsdale's most promising young restaurants, Old Town's Metro Brasserie & Bar, after less than 10 years in the kitchen.
His menu includes usual brasserie fare like steak-frites and onion soup, but his favorite ingredients are maple syrup and bone marrow. He is a strict believer in French technique when it comes to food but never did his requisite year in France. Instead, he went to New Orleans.
A Canadian transplant to Arizona, Taylor began his restaurant career at 15, when he got a job washing dishes at the restaurant where his brother was a server. Ten years later, he's running the kitchen of one of Scottsdale's most talked-about restaurants.
Taylor was accepted to culinary school at the Art Institute of Phoenix before he graduated from high school (early, at just 17) and he worked at Mosaic in Scottsdale all the way through school, stopping for nothing.
"You get out of it what you put into it," he says, and he got out plenty.
After that, Taylor's resume grew considerably -- and fast. He's worked with some of the best, from the local (Deborah Knight of Mosaic) to the celebrity (he spent a few summers interning in Daniel Boulud's kitchen in New York).
"Brad Thompson has been the most influential chef in my career thus far," Taylor says.
When Thompson announced his departure from the famed restaurant though, in March of 2007, Taylor's next move was unknown, until Thompson got a call from John Besh one day -- and Taylor answered the phone in the kitchen. He stuck in a quick question before going to get his boss to take the call: "Oh, are you guys hiring?" Besh said, "Sure."
Two weeks later, Taylor packed up everything he owned and flew to New Orleans. Typical behavior for this chef on-the-rise? "Yeah, I'm pretty random," he says.
He spent the next year working as Besh's sous chef at the famed Restaurant August and helped him open his brasserie, Luke.
Under Boulud, Thompson and Besh, Taylor learned the intricacies of French cuisine, the spice of Southern flavors, and discipline. He learned that great food is made with a simple equation in mind: "It's 70 percent ingredients, 30 percent technique," he says.
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Even at 25, he recognizes that, in the restaurant business, "it's about money," but he knows where the real challenge lies.
"The food is the easy part," he says. But, being a great chef is about compromise -- "and that's the hardest thing for a chef to do," according to Taylor.
Especially when you add on his qualifier: "Without compromising your standards."
And it's clear, Taylor's standards are high.