Rising Star Chef Matt Harper of Kensington Quarters - Biography

Philadelphia, PA

September 2019

After spending his childhood in a small town in Arkansas, Matt Harper went to college to study journalism. But he changed course and moved to Georgia, where he enrolled in culinary school at the Art Institute of Atlanta. After graduation, Harper joined James Beard Award-winning Chef Hugh Acheson at Empire State South, focusing on modern, seasonal Southern cuisine. Working his way from line cook to executive sous chef, Harper cites both Acheson and Executive Chef Ryan Smith for influencing his approach to whole-animal butchery and local sourcing.
In 2015, Harper moved with his girlfriend to Philadelphia, where she began a graduate program at Drexel University. He started working in the kitchen of Chef Michael Solomonov’s modern Israeli landmark restaurant Zahav, rising through the ranks to chef de cuisine. In September 2018, Harper joined Fishtown’s meat-centric Kensington Quarters as executive chef. There he’s applying a boundaryless Southern aesthetic to Pennsylvania product. On any given night, his generous charcuterie board might have turkey country pâté, goat rillettes, coppa, lardo, and dry-cured pepperoni. The $20 skillet of cornbread is a decadent revelation topped with mushrooms, radicchio, and buttermilk dressing. Cooking some of Philly’s most original food, Harper was named to Zagat’s “30 under 30” list in 2015 and earned a StarChefs Rising Star Chef Award in 2019.