Alinea’s Matt Chasseur Accuses New England of a Bad Palate

Photo: Alinea

As sous chef at Chicago’s cutting edge Alinea, New Hampshire native Matt Chasseur has one of the most coveted jobs in the restaurant world, but his ambitions are bigger still. Chasseur recently revealed to CS that he wants to open a fine dining restaurant in Boston. We caught up with Chasseur about his plans for Boston and his assertion that “New England palates aren’t as developed yet. … I want to be part of educating people.”

What’s your timeline for opening a Boston restaurant? Where would you like your restaurant to be?
I’d like to open in the next two years or so. I haven’t started looking at spaces yet. Over the next few years, while I’m still at Alinea, I want to get into Boston and eat more and figure out where I’d like to be.

In the CS piece, you say that “In New England, palates aren’t as developed yet.” Why do you think this is true?
That was definitely taken out of context. I’ve dined in Boston a few times and I love studying restaurants and I’ve never found something in New England that’s been that big fine dining restaurant. I eventually want to come home and open a restaurant that people haven’t been able to experience yet without leaving New England. I just want people to have the opportunity to be able to experience that kind of fine dining. One of the best meals I’ve ever had was at L’Espalier, I thought it was fantastic, but my restaurant would be more intimate. When it comes to service, one of the cool things about Alinea is that the service is more casual.

How do you think Boston and Chicago differ as dining cities?
There are some things that will be a lot more available in Boston. Tourist-wise Boston must do a lot better than Chicago. It has to. There’s a lot more playing in Chicago at the moment. Alinea’s been open for four years already and Curtis [Duffy, former Alinea sous chef] has moved on to do his thing at Avenues. There’s a lot more manipulating of the food [in Chicago] and people have been able to experience that for a bit longer than they have at home where the food is more traditional.

What do you think is Boston’s best feature as a dining city?
Every time I’ve gone out, I’ve noticed that the clientele is really fun.

What would the restaurant be like? You mention The French Laundry as an influence. Does this mean your restaurant won’t be as experimental as Alinea?
It definitely wouldn’t be as experimental as Alinea. The restaurant will be based around everything that comes from New England and that’s sustainable in New England like seafood. I want to try to prepare the food as it is.

What chefs do you admire in Boston?
I’ve had two good meals at Clio. I’ve looked at Craigie On Main online and it looks great. I’ve read [Tony Maw’s] Craigslist posts and they’re pretty intense. Barbara Lynch is extremely admirable as well.

What are your favorite New England ingredients?
Seafood and maple syrup.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from Grant Achatz?
The overall discipline in the kitchen. Being more open about the front of the house and the back of the house is one thing Grant really stresses. We work as one team, not two separate teams.

The Fantastic Four [CS]

Alinea’s Matt Chasseur Accuses New England of a Bad Palate