Matt Lewis worked in upscale kitchens until he rolled out his Southern comfort food truck.
It's Matthew Lewis, the culinary school-trained chef behind the wheel of Where Ya At Matt, Seattle's hottest new food truck. The native New Orleanian has a passel of new friends and fans (including our own Surly Gourmand) with his lineup of Southern soul food. The recipes for gumbo, red beans and rice, po' boys and such come straight from the heart and his family's top secret files. We caught up with the crazy-busy Matt on the fifth anniversary of the breach of the levees in New Orleans for this week's Grillaxin Q&A. Check out the truck's roving locations on Matt's Web site.
SW: Where were you when Katrina hit?
Matt: I was in Seattle, watching it on TV, trying to get a hold of family, especially my grandparents. They evacuated for the first time ever. Sat in traffic for like 13 hours to go something 60 miles. They rode out the storm at a gas station along the way. They were there for three days. They didn't go back. They live in Birmingham, Alabama, now, near my parents.
SW: What brought you to Seattle?
Matt: I came here after I got out of culinary school in New York. I really wanted to work on the West Coast. It was between Seattle and San Francisco. I went to work at the Four Seasons, working for Gavin Stephenson. I did a little bit of everything in my two years there, even worked in banquets and ended up in the kitchen for the Georgian.
SW: That's such a beautiful place that doesn't really get the respect it deserves, right?
Matt: It is gorgeous. A lot of hotel dining rooms don't really get their due. It's not like New York City, where hotel dining rooms are such a big draw.
SW: Where did you go from there?
Matt: I worked for Scott Staples at Restaurant Zoe and then I decided I was going to get out of the business and try making some money. So I got into the mortgage finance industry. But I missed cooking. It gets in your blood. I ended up back at Canlis.
And now you're driving a truck!
Matt: That's right. I'm driving a truck. It actually took about a year to get my business plan together and to have the truck built. We rolled it out at the Mobile Chowdown on August 1. It was crazy. We fed about 400 people that day and we've been busy ever since.
Check back for part two of this week's Grillaxin when Matt schools us on gumbo.