Rising Star Chef Matt Harper of Kensington Quarters - Biography

Philadelphia, PA

March 2019

After spending his childhood in a small town in Arkansas, Matt Harper went to college to pursue a degree in journalism. But he changed course and left Arkansas for 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 started a graduate program at Drexel University. He started working in the kitchen of Chef Michael Solomonov’s Zahav, rising through the ranks to chef de cuisine at the modern Israeli restaurant. 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. It’s some of the city’s most original food from a chef who’s just breaking out on his own. Harper was named to Zagat’s “30 under 30” list in 2015.