Executive chef and proprietor of Mathew's Kitchen (5625 Hampton Avenue; 314-351-1700) Mathew Unger is not afraid to take a leap of faith. While the jump from heading the kitchen at the Missouri Athletic Club to opening his own restaurant may seem like a bold move, it is nothing compared to his career change from stockbroker to chef and certified wine specialist.
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After studying international business at the University of London and working as a stockbroker at Paine Webber, Unger knew that he was on the wrong path. Fast-forward several years, and Unger now finds himself celebrating the two-year anniversary of Mathew's Kitchen, where he serves "comfort food with a twist." He specializes in upscale takes on classic recipes which he's gathered through the years from family and friends, like "Grandma's beef stroganoff," lobster mac & cheese and chicken pot pie.
We checked in with Unger as part of our Chef's Choice series to hear his thoughts on the current state of the St. Louis culinary scene, what inspires him and his guilty pleasures.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? I think my career path is pretty interesting. I went from the world of business into food and beverage because this is what I love. The cliché of follow your dream is something that I truly have done. I love what I do for a living. What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? I am married with four kids and a restaurant. I have no more daily rituals; no day is the same. I just hope to make it through each and every one.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? That's easy. I would love to be able to multiply myself. That way I could be a dad, chef, husband, restaurant owner, son, brother, friend...you get it.
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? The world of craft beer has really exploded into the St. Louis market over the last year. All of the craft breweries that popped up over the last several years have stronger roots and more efficient distribution. We have the ability to offer not only draft but large-formats of these beers. I have focused most of my career on wines and the relationship between food and wine. But this new revolution has opened my eyes to more options from a culinary standpoint. Don't get me wrong: Wine will always be my first true love of the beverage industry.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
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