Interview with Boston Rising Star Chef Matthew Delisle of L'Espalier

by Caroline Hatchett
April 2015

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start in the industry?
Matthew Delisle:
I got a summer job in a hotel after high school, then kept on working. Being young in the kitchen, you learn a lot quickly. I did that for 10 years and got burnt out from that; ten years in the kitchen, Mandarin Oriental and Hilton hotels. I went to school for humanities, two years at Bunker Hill Community College, then two years at Harvard. My intention was to find something else. I saw a different side of food in school. I started to work in restaurants, Jiho [Kim] was a big reason I came to work here after staging. It was more about the art aspect of it, part of a creative process. The main end is the art , not feeding or eating. Ferran Adrià and all those guys are artistically driven. It has a concept and concept is important. 

CH: Who’s been your most influential mentor?
Chef Frank McClelland here [at L’Espalier] has given me creative leeway and supports me 110 percent.

CH: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
I do events like Best of Boston. We do charity events in season, once a month. I’m a big beach guy, every week I go to the beach, like the whole foraging thing. We like going to Cape Ann, North Shore, etc. We also bring in things from the farm every day. 

CH: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
Staffing is always a challenge. Being creative is a challenge; constantly pushing yourself to get a little better every year. Chefs have to be self motivated. You have to motivate yourself to get ahead. We do five days a week. I don’t believe in 16 hour days, because you’re not going to be as productive and not going to put out good food. We want our staff to enjoy their work.

CH: What's your five year plan?
I’ll be in New England. It’s where I’m from. You have to have roots, have to be happy in your environment. If you don’t cook in that environment, you won’t be happy. I’d like to open a small restaurant, driven by creativity and art. This is a big restaurant to run. I’m more than happy to sacrifice any salary for creativity in fine dining. A tasting menu is the only way to go, to be expressive and creative, and have the product be in sync all the time—one vision, one creative direction. Once you move in that direction, you feel more fulfilled.