If you stop by Matt’s in the Market these days, there’s a new chef to thank for that perfectly cooked piece of fish—chef Matt Fortner took over for departing chef Jason McClure as of April 11.
Fortner’s spent the last six years in the Tom Douglas empire, first as a roving chef covering vacations and sick days, then at Cuoco, and most recently leading the Lola kitchen. Before that, he worked for Ethan Stowell—he worked at How to Cook a Wolf and opened Tavolata in Belltown.
Suffice to say, this guy knows his way around a kitchen. And he’s a longtime fan of Matt’s—he says he’s been eating there since about 2004. He and his wife (Stacy, who is the executive pastry chef at Tom Douglas Restaurants) have a long history of lunch dates there. He’s always loved that cornmeal-crusted catfish sandwich. Owner Dan Bugge knew Fortner had his eye on the Matt’s kitchen, so when McClure decided to leave, Bugge sent the chef an email. Days later, it was a done deal.
What will change? For now, not much. “This place is busy and complicated—I have to learn the lay of the land before we start to play,” Fortner says. He’s quick to point out that he’s learning a lot from the kitchen staff there, not just the other way around. And while the lunch menu will likely stay the same—he calls it a “well-oiled machine”—he’s planning to play with the dinner menu, keeping it as market-driven as possible: “That’s something Tom (Douglas) really instilled in me.”
“When I was a chef at Marjorie in Belltown, I brought a wagon down here (to the market) every morning and did my shopping,” Fortner says. “I’m just really glad to be down here—seeing people on a daily basis I haven’t seen in 10 years.” Just please, don’t take those chips and dip off the lunch menu.