Chef Matthieu Godard, executive chef of DB Bistro Moderne in Miami, graciously excused his English (which was actually quite perfect), apologized for the non-vegetarianin him (MAN NEEDS HIS MEAT), and modestly accepted his success at the young age of 34.
We thought to ourselves that there is no reason to be sorry about knowing practically four languages and more than “a couple” of Greek words (if only we were as lucky) and no reason at all to apologize for not being a vegetarian (we respect the lifestyle but…we wouldn’t do it either).
Humble Matthieu, spilled his background story to us…
Most chefs in France jumpstart their career path at 15, he began his around the age of 18 in his hometown of Rouen in Normandy. After finishing three years of cooking school, Matthieu took an unconventional route for French chefs. He wanted to see the world first, so he worked with Club Med for five years, discovering France first, and later expanding to Spain, Greece, the Canary Islands and the Bahamas.
Destiny called and soon after leaving behind this world of travel, he decided to grab his two suitcases and head on over to New York. He worked more than three year at DB Bistro Moderne in New York and continued in Daniel’s catering company, Feast and Fêtes Catering. After eight years, he left New York and now you can find him in Miami at the luxurious kitchen of DB Bistro Moderne.
Here is what he misses, what he remembers, what he loves and where he finds himself today…
THP: What do you miss most from Rouen?
MG: Definitely my family but also, it’s very funny, but when I go to France, even when I get off the plane in the airport, for me, France has a smell. I have a sensitive sense of smell and everything reminds me of a certain smell. And unfortunately, I can’t go to France as often as I’d like but when I go, Normandy has a distinctive smell. I think it’s very important to go back to your roots to never forget where you are from.
THP: You’ve cooked all over the world, which has been the most memorable place for you?
MG: I think each place definitely had something. I will always remember living in the Bahamas in a very small island called San Salvador; no more than 900 people in the island. It’s a paradise. I didn’t wear shoes for almost a year, just flip flops. It’s amazing to realize that you can live like that. You don’t need the artificial things in life, like cell phones. Something that I will always remember is that it’s beautiful; the ocean has 5 different colors.
THP: Who has been your biggest influence?
MG: My chef in New York, Olivier Muller, who is now the corporate chef of Daniel Boulud. I worked with him for three years. He made me grow in my career and I am here because of my hard work and because of him. He was definitely a part of my success, if you can call it a success.
THP: What has it been like to work with Chef Daniel Boulud?
MG: When I worked in the catering company, I had a chance to see how Daniel works. I think Daniel is very approachable and he gives good advice. He still is very much involved and when you see him in the kitchen, you will see him grabbing a knife and just cutting a potato. You don’t see that anymore. He is still enjoying his work and he has a good attitude.
THP: What is your favorite thing to cook?
MG: I always enjoy cooking fish. I think it is very delicate. Not everyone can cook fish. Fish is difficult. The thickness of the fish is all very different and you have to approach cooking fish on an individual basis. I don’t think you can give the task of cooking a fish to just anyone, that is my perception. I like to cook salmon and red mullet known in French as the “rouget”. It’s beautiful on the plate. For me, the taste of the food is very important but also it’s essential to understand that the customers first eat with their eyes. If they like what they see, it’s going to be even better.
THP: Favorite dish on the menu?
MG: So far, I think we have a great Lobster Ravioli (with zucchini, squash and a fennel fondue) right now. We always try to use local ingredients, very seasonal. We change the menu every 2 months. A big seller is the Florida Red Snapper, oven roasted, we do it with small paella, and of course we don’t call it paella because real paella takes 45 minutes to cook. But we do a saffron risotto with chorizo, some peppers, tomatoes, lemon juice, it’s very Spanish.
THP: If it was someone’s first time in DB Bistro Moderne, what would you recommend they try?
MG: I think we have a great selection of house-made charcuterie cured meat; something good to start with. We have a shared platter called Flavors of the Mediterranean that comes with spanakopita, a Greek salad (spinach, feta and phyllo), kibbeh and more, great to share with 3 or 4 friends. It’s really what I want people to feel, that they can come to DB Bistro not only for special occasions but really to have fun, be laid back and enjoy the food.
THP: Favorite thing on the Miami Spice menu?
MG: Miami Spice has been a pretty big hit. I’m still sweating from the lunch. For lunch, if you want to eat light, we have a Lobster and Shrimp Roll with Bibb lettuce, crudités, tarragon dressing, pickled red onion and dirty old bay chips. We also do a Short Ribs Ravioli with roasted corn and Truffle parmesan.