5 Tasty Questions with Chef Mat Schuster
Mat Schuster realized a dream with his life partner, Francisco Cifuentes, when they opened a neighborhood restaurant that would become a local destination. Schuster is completely dedicated to popularizing the bold flavors of Spain and exploring the diversity of culinary techniques Spain is renowned for. The menu at Canela reflects the affinity that Schuster has for Spain as well as the seasonal bounty found in San Francisco.
Schuster offers a mix of traditional and modern Spanish cuisine that transports diners to Spain while incorporating the highest quality natural ingredients from the city farmer’s markets; California vegetables, meat, seafood and poultry are always present on the menu at Canela while authentic specialties such as piquillo peppers, manchego cheese, chorizo and Iberico ham come directly from Spain.
As the foodie community is now discovering the excitement modern Spanish cuisine offers and spreading the trend to other parts of the world, Schuster has long been experimenting with Spain’s gastronomic heritage, which is on display at his restaurant in the Castro. Ever since Schuster met Cifuentes in San Francisco they have been making a regular pilgrimage to explore the region’s cooking which would be most influential on the restaurant’s concept.
His signature menu items include Gambas and Stuffed Piquillo Peppers; other recipes are directly passed on from Cifuentes’ mother, such as Croquetas, Tortilla and, Arroz con Leche. Schuster’s approach to specialty dishes on the menu reveals his personal creativity and flare such as Braised Lamb Riblettes with Root and Potato Purée.
A native of Texas, Schuster is now a longtime Bay Area Chef, as well as food instructor and nutrition educator. Schuster obtained his undergraduate degree from Emory University and it was while at college he traveled abroad to Italy where he cultivated his love for cooking. Upon returning to the United States and finishing his degree, he enrolled in the California Culinary Academy’s College of Food in San Diego and began his career as a chef. He completed his studies at the Bauman College in Berkeley, where he attained his Nutrition Educator degree.
Schuster’s natural instincts as a chef allowed him to excel at teaching professional cooking techniques to a wider audience. Working alongside other celebrated chefs, his ability to translate fine dining methods to home cooks and the affinity he acquired for using the highest quality ingredients in the culinary programs offered at Draeger’s and Whole Foods Market equally balanced his leadership ability in professional kitchens. One of his most formative experiences was with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy as Food and Beverage Director where he managed three different cafés and defined his burgeoning talent.
He still acts as guest chef at Draeger’s Culinary School, Whole Foods Market, Parties that Cook, Sur la Table, Ramekins and other Bay Area establishments to continue sharing his passion for food. Chef Mat and the Canela team recently celebrated a milestone the restaurant’s 5th anniversary. To dine at Canela is to enjoy a happy culinary marriage of Spanish cuisine and the seasonal offerings of California. There are many knockout dishes to devour but their perfect “paella” has me returning for more time and time again.
Chef Mat and I met at Canela recently for our Foodie Chap chat. Enjoy the conversation and the delish Garlic Shrimp recipe. Happy anniversary Canela and here’s to many years more.
KCBS Foodie Chap Podcast:
(credit: Foodie Chap/Liam Mayclem)
Gambas al Ajillo – Garlic Shrimp
Chef Mat Schuster – Canella, San Francisco
Makes 6 servings
¼ cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbl. dry sherry
1 tsp. Spanish paprika
Pinch of butter
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley for garnish
Crusty Bread to Accompany
In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute making sure not to burn the garlic. Raise the heat to high and add the shrimp, then the sherry and paprika after one minute. Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly, until the shrimp turn pink and curl slightly, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and butter and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot with bread.