FOCUS tucks their chairs under the table of CafÉ O.P81 to chat to Matt Smith about his passion for good food, great coffee and breaking out of your comfort zone with exciting flavours.
What is your first memory of food and cooking?
My first memories are of collecting fresh vegetables and eggs from the family gardens and cooking them in a wood fired oven, adding a slightly smokey complexity to even the simplest of dishes; this is what originally got me hooked on cooking. Where did you earn your stripes?
I earned my stripes at a fine dining restaurant in Armidale, “Archie’s On The Park”. I started my apprenticeship in my first year out of school, I then progressed to second chef, and it was at this time the restaurant was awarded a chef’s hat in the SMH Good Food Guide.
In the third year of my apprenticeship, I took over as head chef and continued on in the SMH Good Food Guide for the remainder of my time at “Archie’s On The Park”.
What do you love most about food and cooking?
I love matching textures, flavours and techniques to give our diners an experience; I think dining out should be something you look forward to doing rather than just another way to get a meal, I like to gently encourage people out of their comfort zone to try different foods and combinations that have them leaving the café with an all day smile.
Your food philosophy?
My aim is to create food inspired by texture, pure ingredients, local produce and intensity of flavour.
These elements allow me the inspiration to craft dishes that are unique, delicious, sustainable and to support local producers wherever possible.
These influences, teamed with my life experiences, personality, memories and imagination, guide me to form a menu with integrity, flavour, texture and excitement.
The breakfast there is so good – why?
We try to keep all of the flavours and meals clean, fresh and exciting.
We also use the best pasture raised eggs, supplied by “Waterfall Agriculture” with their farm in the Orara Valley using holistic farm management techniques. As a result, the eggs are rich and clean on the palate and most of all, the yolks are as bright as the sun.
We also make sure that we have vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, as well as the old favourite, bacon and eggs.
Both myself and my wife, Bree, have a passion for all things food and coffee and have both been in the hospitality industry since our early teens.
Combining all of these ingredients make the perfect recipes.