Life on a plate: how Head Chef Matthew Whitfield lets his food tell his story
From the heady smell of gorse and heather burning across the New Forest in winter, to lavender-scented duck at one of the world’s best restaurants and the malt used at his father’s Botley brewery – every innovate dish created by Matthew Whitfield captures the moments, memories and experiences of a passionate chef who has journeyed from the New Forest to New York and back again.
Matthew, 30, was born in the New Forest and feels a real connection to the area and its incredible larder. As a small boy Matthew was being driven past the Montagu Arms Hotel with his grand-parents when he confidently announced: “One day I’m going to work there!”. His grandmother would have been astounded by Matthew's new title, as she was actually responsible for getting him his first job at the hotel after seeing the advert in the local paper. He now returns to the Montagu Arms six years after leaving – this time as Head Chef.
Matthew joined the award-winning Terrace restaurant in January 2019 fresh from the three-Michelin-Star Eleven Madison Park in New York – currently ranked fourth in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Working at EMP under renowned chef Daniel Humm, Matthew has a succession of Michelin-starred restaurants under his belt, including the two-star Sea Grill in Belgium and the one-star Driftwood restaurant in Cornwall, where he was head chef.
Matthew believes that good food is not just about eating, it’s about creating an experience, and this is what he’s keen to bring to the New Forest. He champions modern British food, creating innovate, light dishes that reflect his culinary journey and the natural flavours of fresh, seasonal ingredients.
“All my dishes mean something to me, and everything I put on the plate has a purpose."
Some of Matthew's dishes are inspired by people, and some of his most precise dishes stem from the simple things he's loved. He believes aroma to be powerfully evocative and has created a warm sourdough perfumed with hand-picked rosemary which reminds him of his mother’s Sunday roast lamb; a smoked partridge dish that evokes the smell of gorse being burnt on the New Forest heathland and a Szechuan spiced duck dish which is an homage to everywhere he’s ever worked.
Every innovative dish created by Matthew Whitfield is one in a series of vignettes that capture the most memorable moments and experiences in the life of this passionate chef.
Matthew is also serious about food waste and cooks with the whole ingredient, ensuring nothing goes to waste. His vegetarian tasting menu is as imaginative as everything else on the menu and includes a garden salad featuring vegetables and herbs from the kitchen garden. Matthew picks them every day and they can be on the plate within an hour after being in the garden.