Matt McCallister on Cooking with Christmas Trees
We have a process for creating dishes. There’s a wall of white subway tiles in the dining room. I write ideas on them, which turn into recipes. When I was in Portland, Oregon, I went to Pok Pok. I came home and wrote “Thai chicken” on one tile. On another, I wrote “killer tomatoes.” That’s how Grilled Chicken with Asian Marinated Tomatoes came about.
Michel Bras’s Essential Cuisine was game-changing for me. I’d watched a video about him and did some research and said, “I want this book.” I dropped $400 to get a first edition. I don’t really read cookbooks—I look at the pictures—but I’ll open Essential Cuisine to learn a technique.
I’m a self-taught chef, and I’m stubborn. I will just keep trying until I figure out how to do something. I taught myself to use a centrifuge and to make charcuterie. And I figured out how to make a pine tincture from my Christmas tree, using 100-proof vodka. I also used the tree to make pine oil. I serve both the tincture and the oil with a fried-trout dish.
When I was a teenager, I played a lot of drum and bass. Dieselboy (Damian Higgins) is an icon. He came into FT33 one night. I went up to him with one of our brand-new, custom-made charcuterie boards and I said, “I know this is cheesy, but can you sign this?” And I gave him my Sharpie.