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Heroic Cuisine

Side Dishes: North Hero House Inn & Restaurant gets a hot new chef


Published February 23, 2011 at 9:10 a.m.

Jean-Luc Matecat
  • Jean-Luc Matecat

A letter of recommendation from a former boss can be a boon when you’re applying for a new job. When that boss is Michael Kloeti of Michael’s on the Hill in Waterbury, prospective employers pay attention. Jean-Luc Matecat came to Walt Blasberg, owner of the North Hero House Inn & Restaurant, with just such a recommendation.

Matecat, 29, was to be Kloeti’s chef at the Black Door Bar and Bistro in Montpelier until the restaurant’s sale was canceled in January. A Vermont native, the chef began his culinary studies early at NECI’s cooking school for kids, but continued as an adult at schools and kitchens in California and his father’s native France.

After most recently heading the kitchen at Nantucket’s Cinco Restaurant, Matecat was eager to return home. “I’ve been trying to make the move for three years,” he says. However, finding a job in Vermont’s relatively small fine-dining scene wasn’t easy. Matecat says he considers himself lucky to have seen Blasberg’s ad online.

On Monday, Blasberg and Matecat had just ordered seeds for the restaurant’s two gardens. The chef will focus on using “unique and fun” heirloom varieties and some less common plants such as Jerusalem artichokes.

Matecat’s new menu debuts on Wednesday, February 23. The dishes will emphasize European technique and include Gallic classics such as chicken-liver mousse and pork rillettes with cornichons and passion-fruit mustard. Not everything is French, though. Chicken tagine and fish and chips are also on the menu.

Blasberg is particularly excited about his new chef’s tuna tartare martini appetizer and the seared-tuna burger. The latter appears both in the dining room and at Oscar’s Oasis bar. Come summer, Matecat will also make lobster rolls at the Steamship Pier Bar & Grill.

Though Matecat comes from rarified culinary circles, Blasberg feels confident that his new chef will offer something for everyone, including a “kickass” burger. “I just want people to leave happy,” he says.