Voss was one of the first chefs Burgess contacted early in 2004, when, after eighteen months experimenting and testing, she was ready to put Match on the market. At the time Voss was using Boca burgers, but was unsatisfied. "It was hard to find wholesale," he explains. "When [Burgess] came in, I was immediately interested. I tried the beef Match as a hamburger and liked it immediately. It's not cheap, but it's high quality and made here in the city of St. Louis. It's a double whammy."

For chefs, Match is a lot like Play-Doh. "It's like a blank canvas," says Clint Whittemore, executive chef at the Market at Busch's Grove in Ladue. "You can do anything to it. You can play with it. You can mold it into any shape. It's definitely not meat, but it's very close to meat in texture." Whittemore likes to display his Match meatloaf beside the real thing to see if customers can tell the difference.

In its raw form, Match does not look especially appetizing. The beef is reddish-brown and slightly watery. The chicken, pork and crab are all beige and virtually indistinguishable, except by smell. (The nori used to flavor the crab gives it a marine odor.)

Match executive chef Freddie Holland and culinary liaison Brent Leonard prepare a Match meal in Burgess' Westwood kitchen.
Match executive chef Freddie Holland and culinary liaison Brent Leonard prepare a Match meal in Burgess' Westwood kitchen.
Holland at the Match factory in Fenton.
Holland at the Match factory in Fenton.

Location Info

Map

Terrene

33 N. Sarah St.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

Lucas Park Grille

1234 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Washington Avenue

Schlafly Bottleworks

7260 Southwest Ave
Maplewood, MO 63143

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: Maplewood

Chris' Pancake & Dining

5980 SW Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

The Royale

3132 S. Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - South City

Duff's Restaurant

392 N. Euclid Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

The Market at Busch's Grove-CLOSED

9160 Clayton Road
Ladue, MO 63124

Category: Grocery Stores

Region: Ladue

Helen Fitzgerald's

3650 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Sunset Hills, MO 63127

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Crestwood/ Sunset Hills/ Sappington/ South Lindbergh

Whole Foods Market-Town and Country

1160 Town and Country Crossing Road
Town & Country, MO 63017

Category: Retail

Region: Town & Country

Details


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Whatever the variety, Match feels clammy and glutinous in your hands. You can pack it into a patty or flatten it into a cutlet. You can stuff it into sausages. You can roll it out on the counter, spread a filling on top and roll it back up again to simulate a stuffed pork loin or roulade. It will not collapse. Unless you blend in spices and herbs, it will have a bland soy flavor. Cooked, though, the outside caramelizes into a crust, and the inside becomes textured and chewy, even slightly juicy, not unlike real meat.

"You need to add fat," warns Whittemore. "That's where people go wrong. It's a very lean product."

"The product is as creative as the person using it," says Freddie Holland, Match's executive chef and general manager.

Holland, 40, is, in Whittemore's words, "the master of Match." Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, he previously worked in a commercial bakery in Boston and, not very happily, as a private chef for the family who moved into the Gianni Versace mansion in Miami Beach after the designer's murder in 1997.

Near the end of 2003, Holland met Burgess at a food tasting in St. Louis, where he was working for a caterer. He had already gotten his hands on a sample of Match beef and started experimenting with different ways to cook it. "I was looking for a product like this," he says. "There's nothing like it in the culinary world. I started making my own breakfast sausages. Allison found out about it and called me. I like to tell people I stalked her until she gave me a job."

Holland has created an extensive list of recipes, such as crab cakes and Mediterranean stuffed chicken, which he has posted on the Match website and demonstrates for shoppers at Whole Foods. Lately, he's been taking recipes to Gourmet and Bon Appétit, substituting Match and comparing the results.

"Because it's such a new concept, we really have to get it in people's mouths," he explains. "People see the in-store demos and then they want to get home and have success with it. There's a lot of teaching involved." Many of Match's customers, Holland notes, are not strict vegetarians, but omnivores who are looking for ways to eat less meat.

"That's the trick," says Whittemore. "If a meat-eater will eat it, that's half the battle."

"Match does really well in St. Louis once people taste it," says Marcia Whelan, the marketing team leader at Whole Foods in Town & Country. "They just need a little urging, but once they taste it, they're hooked."

Match is not inexpensive. At Whole Foods, a pound of Match beef goes for $8.99, nearly twice the cost of beef from a cow. (On average, it's about a dollar less at Dierbergs.)

Gary Suarez, executive chef of Washington University's dining services, keeps his Match costs down by rarely serving it as a main dish. Instead, he uses it as a filling for burritos and tacos, or in chili or meat sauce. "It gives us options," he says. "People are excited to see it being used, to have more than beans and rice."

Whelan says the price of Match has never inhibited Whole Foods' customers. "We find that as people's diets shift, they eat mostly raw foods, so they spend a lot less for cooking ingredients in general," she says. "When I buy Match, I feel that I've bought something special that I want to share. It's like having an artisan cheese or bread."

But unlike artisan breads and cheeses, Match is not a "slow food" which can only be prepared with lots of patience. Burgess is too much of a pragmatist for that. "As a busy, full-time working person, I like a meal I can prepare in a few minutes," she says. "It cooks up quickly, and I don't have to fool with bones and skin and stewing. Time is a resource, too."

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