People We Love: Matt McCallister of FT33

Matt McCallister (photography by Kevin Marple)
Matt McCallister (photography by Kevin Marple)

From what I can tell, Matt McCallister and Ned Elliott are destined to be chef besties. McCallister (FT33) has invited Elliott (Foreign & Domestic) to be the next guest chef at his dinner on July 15. Previous guest chefs have been Randy Rucker of Houston and Jeremiah Langhorne (McCrady’s) who just so happen to be friends of Elliott’s as well. They both have a young daughter, small restaurants with big culinary goals, and pork jowl on their menus. We’ll start with Matt.

Marley Dablo: How did you meet Ned?

Matt McCallister: I’ve known about Foreign Domestic for a while, but Jeff Scott, who’s an author, is pretty tight with him. I’m friends with Jeff, so I guess that was more of a mutual acquaintance. As I started getting chefs to come out here and do guest dinners, I thought, ‘I like what he does at his restaurant, we kind of seem to have mutual friends.’ It just kind of made sense that I had him come up here and we get together and do a cool dinner.

Dablo: What was your first impression of him?

McCallister: Well, this is going to be kind of fun because him and me have never really hung out before.

Dablo: Oh, really?

McCallister: Yeah, I’m friends with Jeremiah Langhorn, Jeff Scott, Randy Rucker. It’s all people that I’ve known and previously done a dinner with and they all happen to be buddies of his. So I thought, ‘Oh well I’m just going to have Ned come out here.’

Dablo: So do you ever do any foraging yourself?

McCallister: Now we’re on the topic of foraging? It depends where I’m going and what I’m looking for. Nothing to do with the dinner, though. We’re just gonna throw down an awesome eight course dinner.

Dablo: Speaking of the dinner, what dishes do you plan on cooking?

McCallister: Let me think, I’ve been tossing some ideas around. I have a few vegetable-focused dishes that I’m playing around with right now that have not really fully come to being complete yet. I’m sitting on a chicken dish right now that’s inspired by Thailand so it will use a lot of bright, acidic ingredients, really bright and refreshing flavors so that’s a dish that will probably make it to the menu.

Dablo: If there’s anyone you could have dinner with, who would it be?

McCallister: That’s a loaded question. There are so many people that I would have dinner with. I would probably say Michel Bras. He’s been a big inspiration in a lot of chefs’ cuisines and I’ve always appreciated his intensity, passion, and focus.

Dablo: Favorite song or playlist?

McCallister: I listen to a lot of drum and bass so I would say High Contrast. It’s an album that he released not that long ago, but it’s actually a compilation of a lot of his tracks that he’s released over the past ten years. It’s European drum and bass artist, like electronic music.

Dablo: Have you heard of Felix da Housecat?

McCallister: Yeah, he does house music. Man, I saw him probably at a rave probably back before 2000 so that’s going back.

Dablo: Anything that you have planned for the dinner that’s gonna be a surprise, or is it something you and Ned are working on together?

McCallister: I know he’s working on some stuff, he just sent me a text about some things he’s working on. He mentioned doing a snails and elderflower dish. Most of the stuff I’ll just let it develop. A lot of the things I do at [FT33] are fairly spontaneous. I’ll have some ideas in my head and I’ll write them on the wall and we’ll play around with it and see what kind of ingredients we’re getting from certain farms and let that develop into whatever dish it’s going to develop into.

Since we are getting so much great summer produce, I have a surplus of ingredients. It will develop over the week. I’ll sit down and work on some dishes that I want to showcase.

Dablo: What’s your biggest pet peeve?

McCallister: If we were going into more of a kitchen realm, it would probably the ongoing one that I always have which is not tasting your food. It is a big one.

Dablo: Anything else?

McCallister: I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It seems like me and Ned are probably going to get along great so hopefully we can develop a friendship out of it.

Marley Dablo is a D Magazine intern will be an online journalism senior at the University of Oklahoma in the fall. She plans to attend culinary school upon graduation in hopes of combining her writing and culinary skills to ultimately have her own cooking show one day.