Chef Matt Ridgway began his career at the age of 12 working at his cousin’s gourmet bakery in Holland, Pennsylvania. It was there that his first food memories were captured; he recalls every smell, sight, and sound. After this experience, Ridgway knew he wanted to be in the kitchen. He was excited by the challenge, and his time in the kitchen felt less like work and more like a great life experience.
Ridgway attended Johnson and Wales Culinary School where he pored over every cookbook and culinary magazine he could get his hands on. Graduating summa cum laude, his academic excellence earned him a coveted externship to Sonoma, California at The Eastside Oyster Bar and Grill. Under the tutelage of Charles Saunders, Ridgway was able to experience the beginnings of a great American food movement. “This was a remarkable time because it allowed me to see a culture of America that cared about food and wine almost religiously.” He later traveled cross-country sampling various regional cuisines. He eventually landed back in Philadelphia, where he attended Widener University, studying hospitality and business management. He also began working at The Fountain Room in The Four Seasons Hotel. There he learned and loved the discipline of French cuisine under Executive Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix and Chef Martin Hamman, who served as Ridgway’s mentor. “He was like watching magic,” Ridgway says of Martin. “Every move, touch, and taste of food was meticulously calculated… a metaphorical work of art in motion.”
When Jean-Marie Lacroix opened his namesake restaurant, Lacroix at The Rittenhouse, Ridgway offered his assistance and soon found himself thrust into a position of chef de cuisine. Lacroix’s patience and guidance allowed Ridgway the freedom to flourish. Because Lacroix saw such promise in Ridgway, he sent him to Paris to hone his skills by trailing at George V, a three-Michelin-star restaurant, and to Relais St. Victoire in Aix en Provence, France.
Working with top purveyors inspired Ridgway to vary the menu at Lacroix weekly; passion, perfection, and creativity were the cornerstones of his kitchen, earning him a 2004 StarChefs.com Rising Stars Award. After leaving Lacroix at The Rittenhouse, Ridgway worked for the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, and The Oak Room, before stepping out of the restaurant kitchen to create PorcSalt with strategic partner, James MacKnight, the highly respected purveyor of Bucks County’s River and Glen, where he creates the highest-quality local and sustainable charcuterie, pates, and terrines, in the traditions of France and Italy.
In 2013, Ridgway culminated his experience into his new restaurant,the PASS in Rosemont, New Jersey. Serving a small prix fixe menu the kitchen produces French inspired cuisine in a casual setting.