Matt Dawes found his way to cooking in his mid-20s, after having traveled extensively in India and Sri Lanka and working for development organizations. He spent much of his time there building small-scale, sustainable farming practices, and his work sharing food at its most basic level hasn’t stopped since. When he returned to the States, cooking came calling, and by 28 he was a graduate of Johnson & Wales, ready to step into the game.
The game, for Dawes, was played on a decidedly Southern turf. In the decade after graduating, Dawes eschewed the traditional hopscotch from restaurant to restaurant, building a résumé in short bursts at longstanding North Carolina restaurants. His first job after culinary school was at Four Square Durham, followed up with a longer stint at Table in Asheville, North Carolina, working as co-chef Jacob Sessoms.
With fewer names, but longer hours, on his résumé, Dawes partnered with Drew Wallace to open Bull and Beggar in summer 2013. Only a few menus into its opening, Bull and Beggar is already showcasing Dawes’s penchant for sophisticated Southern, seasonal cooking—the kind of bold, delicately finessed flavors you get when you’ve been cooking locally, and seriously, for more than a decade. And that local dedication goes beyond the walls of his restaurant: Dawes actively participates in the Blind Pig Supper Club a non-profit founded by fellow Rising Star Mike Moore that raises money for a variety of charities.