Chef Matt Ravenscroft: A Cinderella Story Of A Chef And His Veggies
Story Previously Published on Kenzieosborne.com
Many of us grow up in a world of Welch “fruits”, cereal box “dinners”, and french fry “vegetables”. Annnd, although that may seem like a tasty menu, it’s nothing in comparison to a home-cooked meal prepared with REAL food. Chef Matt Ravenscroft was never a “vegetable-nay-sayer”, but he certainly wasn’t initially their “number-one-fan”. Well folks, thanks to years of experimentation and a keen attitude to learn more, Chef Matt has figured out how to make vegetables taste AMAZING. And lemme tell ya — this is one “Cinderella Story” for the keeping…
Growing Up In A World Of Cans, Boxes, And Mystery Eats…
Growing up in Burlington, Chef Matt was all-too-familiar with all-things canned, processed, boxed, and packaged. There was nothing like indulging in a decadent chicken a la king (aka: canned mushroom soup with peas and chicken), a box of dry cereal, or a container of sprinkles for dinner (hey — at least it’s a colourful plate, right).
Chef Matt’s parents were loving and caring, but they were also incredibly busy. When they were at home, they had one priority: to spend time with their kids. So, instead of spending hours making pasta from scratch, they’d indulge in processed foods that allowed for more time to talk, laugh, and share memories at the table. “We ate for nourishment and socialization. Food was never about learning how to make grandma’s special hand-made pasta recipe. Instead, food was all about sitting together and catching up.”
A Pineapple?? What’s That…?
Although Chef Matt had a very positive relationship with food — he was clueless as to what REAL food actually is… “I don’t think I ever had a pineapple until I was 19. I had no clue what frisee was, and I definitely couldn’t tell what thyme looked like when it wasn’t dried up and in a box.”
Instead of treating himself to wholesome and natural eats, his relationship with “food” was an intense love for all-things sugary and processed.
Let’s be honest. Everyone LOVES a sugar rush from time to time — I mean, who can say no to a big scoop of ice cream with pounds of sprinkles and some ooey-gooey chocolate peanut drizzle? But, I think our society has unfortunately shifted too far into the “fake-food-world”, serving up faux fruits (aka: gummies), faux soup (aka: canned chemicals), faux-this, and faux-that.
We’ve become so obsessed with the processed, that we’ve forgotten all about what REAL food actually is. We’re scared to try raw, natural foods — and we’re afraid that they won’t be as satisfying and pleasurable as our box o’ goodies on top of the fridge.
Looking At Food In A New Light
In highschool, Matt started to look at food differently. He began to realize the impacts that food can have on the environment and animals. At around the age of 16, Chef Matt decided to cut out meat, dairy, and eggs… Annnnd, that meant that he had to figure out a way to master the art of cooking vegetables.
Learning how to make vegetables taste amazing was a task-and-a-half. His family was super supportive of his choice to eat a vegan diet, but it meant that Matt’s meals would look quite a bit different from what the rest of his family would be eating. Although his mum and dad were more than happy to whip up something on the side for him, Matt wanted to tackle the task on his own. So, without a second thought, he stepped into the kitchen and started to experiment with whatever he could find.
“I started to cook in a way that was more adventurous and bold. If it didn’t taste good, it didn’t matter — I’d be the only one eating it anyways! I started to experiment with different vegetable combinations, but my understanding of cooking was more so heat-it-up-and-serve. It was usually some sort of heated vegetables topped with a pre-made sauce and a piece of bread… Eventually, I got bored of what I was eating and I decided to learn how to cook properly.”
Jumping Into The Kitchen, Clueless As Heck…
As his curiosity grew, Chef Matt started to gain an appreciation for wholesome foods, and cooking with intent. He’d been working as a cook and dishwasher in a few reheat-and-serve-kind-of-fast-food-joints, but now he wanted something more…
One day, Chef Matt was offered an opportunity to work at a REAL restaurant, cooking with REAL food. Chef Matt took the gig without a second thought — and low-and-behold, he was on his way to becoming an incredible chef.
Reality Check: Everyone starts at square one. Chef Matt wasn’t born an incredible chef… And he certainly had his fair share of messed-up-meals, questionable flavour combos, and burnt dinners.
In his new gig at the REAL food restaurant, Chef Matt was tasked with preparing the staff meal.
- Challenge one: Instead of cooking for 5 at home, he’d now be preparing meals for 20…
- Challenge two: Everyone was gonna be eatin what he was cooking…
“At the beginning, I was serving them over battered chicken, grey rostis, terrible curries, and pasta that would probably make Italy cry… But I kept trying, learning, tasting and improving. I saw how dialed in others were, and I knew exactly how far outta my element I was. I wanted to get to the level of the other chefs. It felt kinda like being the kid on the basketball team that can’t shoot a hoop to save their life. All I wanted was to get that one shot.”
Chef Matt asked question after question, volunteered at every event he could, and worked extra-long hours to learn as much as he could. Not only did his techniques improve dramatically, but he also began to develop his own cooking style (and it’s one that Toronto’s hungry bellies are EXTREMELY grateful for!)
From A Clueless Kid To An Inspiring Chef
“My dishes are inspired by the ingredients themselves. I don’t like planning things ahead of time — I just look at what’s in my fridge, what’s available, what looks good, and what i’m in the mood for at the time. Then, I’ll make a variety of small plates to share around the table. I usually go for really big flavours, interesting textural components, and Fresh techniques. But in the end, it’s all about creating a great experience for guests, family, and friends.”
If you’ve ever been to Rosalinda’s, you’ve probably had the pleasure of diggin’ in to one of Chef Matt’s plates of YUM. He focuses on elevating the flavour of vegetables and vegan recipes — so much so, that even the most hard-core-carnivore would be beggin for another bite!
How To Make Vegetables Taste Amazing Part 1
Realize The Potential…
“I think the biggest misconception about eating healthy, wholesome foods is that it won’t be satisfying. People seem to think that processed food will be more pleasurable… But, trust me, there is nothing more satisfying and delicious than a nourishing, well-cooked meal. When I was younger, my friend and I would split a pound-and-a-half of steak and a giant donut to celebrate events. We honestly thought that was the “creme-de-la-creme”… Now, i’m much more satisfied with having a delicious grilled eggplant dish or a full and flavourful salad.”
Reality check #2: “For some reason, we’ve developed this thought that eating vegetables is a chore. But it’s not that you don’t like them — you’ve probably just never eaten them prepared in the right way.”
So true… When vegetables are cooked with the same love and care that meats are — their beautiful flavours really shine through…But if they’re left to the side and just slapped on the dish, they may not be the most incredible bite…
“My mom microwaves and steams vegetables to death. She overcooks them, and doesn’t play with the flavour nuances that are there. When I travelled over to Thailand for the first time, I was blown away by the flavours of their vegetables. I was at a culinary workshop and we made this cucumber salad with garlic, ginger, chilies, and limes… Something shifted and clicked — it was SO damn good!”
How To Make Vegetables Taste Amazing Part 2
Understand The Flavour Profiles…
Understanding the flavours and components of different vegetables is key to creating jaw-droppingly delicious plant-based dishes. Cook them well, and pair em’ with complimentary flavours! Not sure what that means? Thankfully, Chef Matt has a few ideas on how to make vegetables taste AMAZING…
- Cauliflower with hazelnuts, walnuts, or a herbaceous sauce
- Earthy mushrooms with a counterpart like a bright squeeze of lemon or lime
- Carrots with an almond and dill sauce
- Broccoli with lemon, pistachio, and tarragon
Yum. Yum. And YUMMMMMM. Who else is whipping up a plant-based feast tonight?? I know I am hehe…
From A Second-Thought To The Star Of The Show
In North America, we tend to give allll our attention to the meat… We’re have NO clue how to make vegetables taste amazing… Instead, we just slap the veg on the side and call it a day. But, if we spent the SAME amount of time and effort in preparing our veggies — we could have the SAME delicious bites that we enjoy with our favourite meat-based meals.
That’s exactly what Chef Matt is doing at Rosalinda Restaurant. “I want to show people what can be done with vegetables. It’s possible to eat satisfying plant based meals! I love to push against the misconception and prove that you can eat a giant roasted eggplant that’s JUST as delicious as a grilled steak.” Chef Matt is serving new and exciting plant-based foods like coconut ceviche, vegan cakes, and jackfruit tacos. He certainly knows how to make vegetables taste AMAZING — and his guests are lovin’ every bite of plant-based goodness!
If you’re hungry after this read, head on over to Rosalinda’s website HERE to browse through their drool-worthy sweets, treats, and savoury eats. Annnd, make sure to follow their instagram HERE to stay tuned for their re-opening! Of course, if you’re looking for extra food-inspiration, follow Chef Matt on instagram HERE. He has some killer veg dishes ready to share with your hungry tummies!
Thank you so much to Chef Matt for spending the time to speak with me. As soon as things are up and running, y’all better bet I’ll be sprinting on over to Rosalinda Restaurant for a bite of their delicious creations! Before I let Matt get back to the kitchen, I had a few of my favourite Quickfire Questions to ask…
1. What Is Your Favourite Food?
“Green thai curry — very spicy with lots of veg”
2. What Is Your Favourite Dish To Cook?
“Breakfast salad — eggs or crispy tofu, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, kale, pickled onions, and tomatoes. It’s basically everything on a typical breakfast plate, but it’s turned into a giant salad.”
3. What Are Three Ingredients You Always Have In Stock At Home?
“Salt, citrus (lemon or lime), onion”
4. In One Word, Describe What Food Means To You.
“That’s so tough… It’s so much… Food is honestly everything — it’s the tie that binds us all together.”
5. What Is Your Favourite Food Memory?
Memory 1: When I was younger, I would melt a bowl of gummy bears and eat that. Literally just a bowl of melted sugar.”
Memory #2: “Every year my dad makes these oatmeal cookies that he learned from a babysitter that he had as a child. There’s only three of us, but he probably makes over 100 of these every Christmas. I always look forward to that. They’re SOOO GOOD!!”
Memory #3: “One day (at the first restaurant I worked at) my chef actually came up for a SECOND helping of a pasta I made. It was the moment when I started to realize that I was slowly getting better at this!”
Comment below your favourite tips and tricks on how to make vegetables taste AMAZING! Then, get on experimenting in your own kitchen and see what masterpieces you can come up with!