Matt Gallaher

Emilia

Entrée:

Cavatelli alla Bolognese: “little hollows” pasta with Ragú Bolognese of Mitchell Farm beef, Strauss veal, and Heritage Farm pork, with San Marzano tomatoes and pecorino Romano.

Tie-3rd Place Dessert:

Butterscotch Budino: creamy butterscotch pudding with salted caramel, candied pine nuts, and whipped cream.

When Matt Gallaher was 9 years old, his mom started a catering company, and he helped out. That company, he says, “grew into two restaurants, and so by the time I was 12, I was actually working on salary.” He got a degree in chemical engineering from UT, but decided that cooking was his pursuit. He worked for a catering firm before immersing himself in cooking and fine dining at Blackberry Farm.

For Gallaher, cooking is “about taking care of people and hospitality and connecting with people and not trying to outdo somebody.” He’s brought that hospitality to town, returning after five years cooking for the governor in Nashville and on the road cooking for bands. He sees Knoxville as a small, very close community that is adventurous and willing to try new things. “When we run an octopus special here, we sell out every time,” he says. “If I can sell out of octopus in Knoxville, I know that we’ve arrived as a foodie town.”

Favorite Food to Eat: “My grandmother’s fried chicken. Comfort food is the best food. I’ve had the opportunity to cook high end, multi-course meals, but home cooking is always what I gravitate toward.”

Favorite Food to Prepare: “In a nutshell, fresh fish. Anytime I can get my hands on something that’s super-fresh and treat it delicately, I think that’s my favorite.”

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