This chef's credo—simple food, done well—extends from his Boulder café, the Kitchen, to cooking at home.
Kitchen Cred London-born Matheson, 40, grew up in Suffolk and attended London's Leiths School of Food and Wine. After bartending in Italy and working hotel and restaurant jobs in England, he moved to Colorado and received a degree in interior design from the Art Institute of Colorado in 2002. But the pull of the culinary world was strong, and five years ago this month he opened the Kitchen in Boulder.
Food for Thought "I made this in 1996," he says, displaying a large framed poster of handwritten notes and sketches that outline his inspiration for the Kitchen. "I was sitting in the hills of Tuscany and wrote out the place of my dreams." The notes reflect his ideal restaurant environment: "A clean, crisp feel. Colors white. Flowers simple. This is all to be continued into the food."
Mix & Match "I don't like to buy things in sets," he says of his collection of unmatched plates, bowls, and silverware. "I pick things up at the Portobello Market [in London] when I go back a couple of times a year." Along with his market finds, Matheson's silverware includes his grandmother's silver-plate demitasse spoons and dinner knives from his mother's attic.
Veggie Friendly "I try to use meat in moderation—so much energy and effort goes into raising meat, I try to encourage vegetarian meals and appetizers." Matheson whips up satisfying main dishes such as spinach risotto or pasta with broccoli, and makes hummus for an easy meatless dish.
Food Chain "I think it's important for my kids to see where their food comes from. Anne from Cure Organic Farm rears two pigs each year, and I help with the butchering. One year my kids were riding the pigs one week, and the next they were rubbing salt on their shoulders."
Gone Fishing "We call this the glug-glug jug," Matheson says, holding up this fish-shaped pitcher, which makes a loud gulping sound when poured. "It was my grandmother's, and I have fond memories of it. Now my kids love it, too."
Fresh English Pea Salad (Serves 4-6)
This is a flavorful salad in the early spring, when peas still taste nutty.
- 1 pound fresh English peas
- 1 bunch fresh mint
- ½ bunch arugula
- Juice of at least 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ½ pound pecorino cheese (feta cheese can be substituted)
If in peapods, remove peas. Bring a pot of very salty water (you want it to taste like the sea) to a boil. Add peas and boil for about 1 minute, just until color changes to a consistent bright green. Remove and cool in ice water or under running cold water. (The cold water stops the cooking and keeps the peas bright green.)
Wash and dry mint and arugula. In a bowl, combine peas with mint and arugula. Add juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Shave half of the pecorino onto a cutting board and reserve. Shave remaining pecorino, chop, and add to salad; toss. Taste and adjust seasoning with more lemon juice or olive oil as desired.
Serve immediately, topped with reserved shaved pecorino cheese.