Chef Matthew Daughaday of Taste (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200) talks to Gut Check about food, family, Gerard Craft and his favorite after-work hangouts.
Did your family cook together when you were a child? Yes. We had family dinner at 6 p.m. every night. Both my mom and dad cooked. My dad had his specialties he prepared, but most of the time my mom cooked. My mom even had a bell on the back porch that she would ring when it was time for dinner. We would be playing in the park and we would hear the bell and know it was time to come home.
What was one of your favorite childhood meals? It's probably still the same now: meatloaf. There used to be a butcher in U-City -- we went there my whole life -- and he had a mix he would use for his meatloaf that I think was veal, lamb and pork, which was just irreplaceable. The butcher passed on, and my mom makes her version of it, which is pretty good, but it's not the same.
How old were you when you started cooking? I can remember when I was real little messing around in the kitchen. I remember one Mother's Day, when I was too young to probably even be near a stove, me and my friend tried making what we thought were pancakes but which were just flour and sugar and water. Our moms were gracious enough to eat it. It was probably in high school when my friends and I would be cooking on a regular basis with each other. One of my closest friends and I would cook what we thought were fancy night dinners with wine and everything.
Where was your first cooking job? I worked at a natural foods store in Colorado when I was in school and I started making meals to-go. I realized there how much I loved working with food, but my first job cooking on a line was after I moved back to St. Louis to go to culinary school, at Luciano's [Trattoria].
Did you attend culinary school or college? I went to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, for English education and then started at Forest Park Community College for culinary, but ultimately earned my culinary degree from California Culinary Academy.
What do you eat? I rarely ever cook for myself when I'm home so I end up eating way too much late-night food out. If I do cook for myself I make myself a lot of simple food -- things like pasta with garlic and chili flakes.
We'd be most surprised that you eat...? As much as I sort of despise the fast-food industry, I still love Steak 'n Shake, I can't help it. There's one right by my house on the way home from work. I try to stay away but I can't.
What are your three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides you own)? Honestly, non-biased, Brasserie [by Niche] is one of my favorite places to sit down and have a meal. The food is always 100 percent solid. Another place, really because I've gone there since I was little, is Duff's. I always get the same thing there, too -- a burger and the French onion soup. You can't go wrong with the blue plate lunch special at Farmhaus. Sidney Street [Cafe] is always awesome and Mike Miller from Dressel's and I worked together at Niche, and it's always fun to see what he's doing. We have a very similar style in many respects.
A local chef who most impresses you? Kevin Nashan at Sidney Street. Aside from being extremely humble about what he does, he is amazing. Starting the garden when he did and when he started making charcuterie -- he deserves more acclaim and I have mad respect for what he does as a chef and how he went about it.
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