2019 Farmer All-Star: Special Honors, Matt Yohalem
In 1996, Chef Matt Yohalem opened Il Piatto to an Esquire Top 20 Best New Restaurants in America Award. Matt’s love of the food industry started early. “[As a kid in New York] I used to save up all of the packets of Chinese food sauces and then it occurred to me that when my parents left me $20 to order my sister and I dinner, it would be much cheaper to get the ingredients for $4.99 and use all those nifty little sauces in a wok and keep the $15 worth of change.” By the time Matt graduated from high school, he had worked at least a dozen different restaurant jobs from busing and delivering to cashiering to assistant line cook.
Matt’s training as a chef taught him to always seek out the best, freshest ingredients. “I was taught by the best chefs – Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, and Michael Romano. They taught me that the best ingredients come from the best farms in the best places.” By learning this philosophy early in his culinary career, it stands to reason that Matt Yohalem is a regular at the Farmers’ Market.
The “Farm to Restaurant” style of running Il Piatto started with Matt’s first chef job. “I took a van to the Union Square Farmer’s Market, I bought the best stuff I could, I laid it all out on this huge work table, and I just made up the menu every day based on what was on that table. And, that is still pretty much how I function. There are standards that I have to keep on the menu, but I try and change it as often as the seasons and the products change.”
Over the years, Matt has formed a trusted and reliable relationship with several farmers, including Matt Romero (Romero Farms), Chris Bassett (Freshies), Kim Martin (Growing Opportunities), Daniel Corona (Española Valley Farm), Alex Pino (Revolution Farm) and Andre Rollin (Eve’s Farm), to name a few. “The word is out at the Market; People that have one box of something super special, like maybe okra or cherries, they know to come to me and that I’ll buy the whole thing. I do that on a regular basis. I just look for the happy faces that are waving me down because they have something super special that I want.”
The impeccable reputation of Il Piatto was built on Matt’s skills as a Master Chef and his dedication to supporting and (benefiting from) local farmers, so his customers will always have amazing food on their plates.
Photos and video by Gabriella Marks Photography