KCBS Foodie Chap Podcast:
When Executive Chef Matthew Accarrino of SPQR recalls what attracted him to the hospitality industry, he says, “It gave me the chance to tell my story with food.” Accarrino’s family heritage leads back to the wind swept hills and coast of Puglia, Italy. Visits with his extended family and stints spent cooking there at an early age instilled a deep appreciation for quality, seasonal, handmade products and ingredients. Learning to make pasta, polenta, and risotto in Italy also influenced his distinctive approach in the kitchen. “It impressed on me the importance of starch as its own course in that cuisine, which is in a sense, where much of my inspiration comes from.”
Born in the Midwest and raised in New Jersey, Accarrino began his culinary journey in high school working his way up from dishwasher to cook in small local restaurants. He enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America, where in 1998, he received his Associate Degree in Culinary Arts. Upon completion of his formal education, the kean young chef worked in New York City for Charlie Palmer of Aureole and then for Todd English as sous chef at Olives in The W Union Square.
“Cooking to me is a way to create some kind of personal narrative. Some way that transposes my style into food to tell some sort of story and to encourage those who work for me to do the same.”
– Matt Accarrino, Executive Chef
In 2002, after working with Rick Moonen at his seafood restaurant Oceana, Accarrino embraced his first solo project, Restaurant RM. The restaurant received three stars from the New York Times. Soon after he was invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House.
In 2004, he joined the opening team at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York as sous chef. The restaurant would go on to earn three Michelin stars and a coveted 4-star rating from the New York Times.
In early 2006, Chef Tom Colicchio approached Accarrino to assist with operating three of his restaurants in New York – Craft, Craftbar and Craftsteak and then the move West to open Craft & in Los Angeles.
Accarrino moved to Northern California the intimate restaurant SPQR as Executive Chef in late2009. Since his arrival, Accarrino has been named a Star Chefs “2010 Rising Star” and in 2011 he took top honors at San Francisco’s Cochon 555 competition.
He was nominatedby the James Beard Foundation as a semi-finalist for “Best Chef:Pacific” in 2012 and the restaurant received its first Michelin star under his direction in the 2013 guide. Chef Matt is also co-author with Shelley Lindgren of the “SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine book” which was recently released.
Chef Matt’s narrative is as he put it “to employ my Italian heritage and the modern perspective I’ve gained by working with some of America’s greatest chefs. I am constantly challenging myself evolve to further define my vision, and lead myself forward.”
We met in the SPQR kitchen for our Foodie Chap chat. He cooked I watched, we ate, we talked, I ate some more – would have been rude not to.
Enjoy the chat with this rock star Chef. He deserves every bit of the success that his love and passion for cooking has brought his way. This lad from New Jersey is the “boss” of his culinary journey and the best I believe is yet to come!
Five Tasty Questions with Chef Matt Accarrino
1. Cooking to you is…?
Cooking to me is a way to create some kind of personal narrative. Some way that transposes my style into food to tell some sort of story and to encourage those who work for me to do the same.
2. It’s midnight and I go to your fridge at home, what will I find?
A chilled bottle of sparkling wine. Always.
3. In the soundtrack to your journey, if you could pick one song, one artist, what would it be?
i dont about one song, but I could pick one artist. U2 is my favorite band.
4. What dish reminds you of home?
Beef stroganoff. My mom used to make an epic beef stroganoff.
5. At your last supper, you can have a couple of guests, dead or alive, who would they be and what would you eat?
I would want everything that I can’t have so I’ll have Jean Louis Palladin and Julia Child do the cooking. I’d have all the family members that are no longer with me there and I will eat all the things that I cannot have; wild caviar, wild salmon, anthing extinct.
Erbazzone Torta with Braised Greens, Prosciutto Cotto, and Eggs
scant 2 cups 00 flour
11/3 cups durum flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound, 5 ounces mixed braising greens, such as kale, mustard, chard, and dandelion, stemmed (about 12 cups)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup soffritto (page 282)
1 cup drained ricotta (see page 281)
21/2 ounces prosciutto cotto, diced finely (a generous 1/2 cup)
2 ounces (3/4 cup) finely grated ricotta salata
nutmeg for grating
a pinch of sea salt
11 ounces (3 to 5 stalks) cardoon
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 anchovies, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
a pinch of dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced dill
kosher salt and black pepper
To make the dough: In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the flours and salt on low speed. In a bowl, whisk together the wine, water, and oil. With the mixer on medium speed, drizzle in the liquid. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes or until a coarse dough forms, then turn onto the counter and knead several times by hand until the dough comes together and feels elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to soften and hydrate.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly oil a round casserole or pie dish.
Put 4 eggs in a small pot and cover with 1 to 2 inches of cold water. Bring the pot to a boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let the eggs stand in the water for 8 minutes. Prepare an ice bath. Shock the eggs in the ice bath, then peel.
Heat the olive oil in a large, wide pot. Add the butter and onion and sweat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the greens, season with salt and pepper, and cover. Cook until the greens are very soft, about 8 minutes. Pour the vegetables into a colander and let them drain. When cool enough to handle, chop the greens and place in a mixing bowl. Stir in the soffritto, ricotta, prosciutto cotto, and ricotta salata, and season with a few gratings of nutmeg, salt, and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 eggs and fold into the greens.
Clear a large work surface for rolling out the dough. Unwrap the dough and cut off a piece just slightly bigger than half of the total. With a rolling pin, roll the larger piece of dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about as thick as piecrust. Line the prepared dish with the dough. Spread half of the filling in the base of the pan, then nestle in the hard-boiled eggs. Cover the eggs with the remaining filling. With your fingertips or a pastry brush, brush water along the edge of the crust.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the remaining half of the dough to the thickness of a piecrust. Drape the dough over the torta. Using your fingers, pinch the top and bottom crusts together, and crimp the edges, trimming away any excess dough. Using a paring knife, cut slits on the top of the torta so steam can escape. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place the torta on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
With a vegetable peeler, peel the stringy external layer off the cardoons. Slice the cardoons into 2-inch pieces, then soak in water with the juice from 1 or 2 lemon wedges. For the bagna cauda, in a small pot over very low heat warm the olive oil and butter. Add the anchovies and garlic and let infuse for 30 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes and remove from the heat. Drain the cardoons. Toss in a bowl with enough bagna cauda to coat. Season with dill, salt, pepper, and a few squeezes of lemon juice. Serve the torta in slices and spoon the dressed cardoons alongside.
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