2015-10-08 / Cuisine

In the kitchen with...

MATTHEW BYRNE, Kitchen, West Palm Beach

Chef Matthew Byrne of Kitchen wants diners to feel as if they are having a meal in his home. 
COURTESY PHOTO Chef Matthew Byrne of Kitchen wants diners to feel as if they are having a meal in his home. COURTESY PHOTO Chef Matthew Byrne of Kitchen in West Palm Beach started cooking at the age of 13 with his grandmother and within 10 years he was wowing them at Philadelphia’s finest restaurants.

Chef Byrne began his love affair with cooking a year earlier, when he discovered a deli near the office where his mother worked. The owner was a friend of hers and the young boy badgered his mother for opportunities to hang out there. The deli owner put him to work cleaning bathrooms, making deliveries and performing odd jobs, but the boy soon found his way into the kitchen.

“They were like pirates in there,” he laughed. “They were cursing and they were loud and they were crazy. But they were really good at what they did. I fell in love with the whole scene, so they took me in. They let me take turkeys out of the freezer and put paprika on them. I cut onions for onion rings. In fact, the recipe I use for my own onion rings today, came from them. It was one of the first things I learned how to cook.”

That deli is no longer around, he said, but he soon started making the rounds of Philadelphia restaurants and eventually found a mentor in Patrice Rames, owner and chef at Bistro St. Tropez.

“He taught me about putting hard work in,” Chef Byrne said. “He taught me how to use food wisely, how not to waste it — how to manage it and crossutilize things. He also gave me a very long leash in the kitchen and showed me how to make money. If I wasn’t cooking, I was reading about cooking. If I wasn’t sleeping, I was cooking. It became an obsession.”

Chef Byrne found his way to Florida by serving as the private chef of George and Lyn Ross, who wintered in Palm Beach. That job continued for 10 years until he segued into the position of estate manager and private chef for golf great Tiger Woods. He and his wife, Aliza, wanted to settle in the area and they opened Kitchen in October 2013 — a small, intimate and sophisticated space. Boasting a continuously changing menu, Kitchen quickly evolved into a magnet for local foodies.

He has won kudos for his Kitchen Burger. The secret? Fold foie gras into the grass-fed ground chuck, sear it, then put it on a brioche roll.

“I also love putting local fish on the menu,” he said. “We’ve been working with cobia a lot and whatever other local fish I can get. ”

In their kitchen at home, the Byrnes like to play around with recipes that just might end up on Kitchen’s bill of fare.

“We’ll make clams and pasta,” he said. “The other night we made tostadas, which were delicious. We’ll make whatever fits our mood. That’s how chicken schnitzel got on our menu. It’s why we call our restaurant Kitchen. We really want to create the feeling you’re in our home. That’s why we’re so small. We don’t have a formal bar — beer, wine and Champagne only. We’re dining driven. We treat our customers with respect and love. And it seems to be paying off.”

Matthew Byrne

Age: 42

Original Hometown: Philadelphia

Restaurant: Kitchen, 319 Belvedere Road, #2, in West Palm Beach. Call 249- 2281 or log on to KitchenPB.com.

Mission: Keep it simple, buy the best local ingredients and do as little to them as possible.

Cuisine: Contemporary American brasserie

Training: No formal training, but has been working in restaurants since age 12.

What’s your footwear of choice in the kitchen? Chef’s clogs.

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a restaurateur or chef? “Put all the work in. Don’t try to leapfrog over the things you should be learning. Peel the carrots. Peel the onions. Do all the grunt work and you’ll have a much better appreciation of the people who wind up doing it for you.” ¦

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