The name Jean-Luc Matecat has been in the news ever since Michael Kloeti of Michael’s on the Hill named him chef at the Montpelier restaurant Kloeti planned to buy and open in January. After that sale was canceled, in February, Matecat took a job as executive chef at the North Hero House. Now its owner, Walt Blasberg, has announced that Matecat has taken leave of the restaurant.
“He had serious personal issues that required his full attention and made it impossible for him to fulfill his duties as the North Hero House chef,” says Blasberg. Matecat could not be reached for comment.
According to Blasberg, guests were pleased with the Vermont native’s French-influenced local cuisine. “He’s a very talented chef, and he created a great menu,” says Blasberg. “While he was at the North Hero House, he imparted a lot of knowledge to what I think is already a very capable staff.”
That staff includes Cordon Bleu-educated sous-chef Tim Leonard, who has been appointed interim head chef. Though Blasberg expresses faith in his current staff, he says he is seeking an immediate replacement for Matecat, “someone with strong classical training that they can use as a base to be creative with local foods.”
Matecat leaves behind a menu that includes Gallic dishes such as chicken-liver mousse and steak frites alongside burgers and fish ’n’ chips. Another legacy: some serious equipment.
Just three weeks ago, an immersion circulator arrived at the North Hero House. Before leaving, Matecat trained his staff to use the machine to cook fish, meats and veggies in a temperature-controlled water bath, a method called sous-vide. The device is rare in Vermont, and Blasberg says the ultratender foods that cook slowly in their own juices have been a hit. “Last weekend, we sold out of everything,” he says.
Those dishes included haddock cooked with tarragon and lemon, then pan seared and served with local cauliflower and sweet-potato purees. Sous-vide pork loin in duck-based cider demi-glace will soon be added to the restaurant’s regular menu, along with a market fish dish and a vegetable inspired by the kitchen team’s studies of Thomas Keller, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide.
For those who want more than just a taste, Blasberg promises an all-sous-vide menu for Vermont Restaurant Week, which will run from April 29 through May 5. His staff is currently testing recipes by committee, he says, while he searches for his new chef.