Matt McCallister Talks About Opening UnaVida and New Job With Native Favourite

Matt McCallister Talks About Opening UnaVida and New Job With Native Favourite

When information broke that Matt McCallister, the chef behind beloved Dallas eating places Homewood, FT33, and Filament, was taking a job with Native Favourite Eating places Group, and that his first undertaking could be a quick informal Mexican meals spot, it was a head-scratcher. The chef who targeted on positive eating working with the individuals who personal chain eating places together with El Fenix and Twisted Root?

In an interview, McCallister discusses the job and the primary restaurant model he’s creating for his new firm, UnaVida, which is now open within the West Village. He supplied some perception into all of that, and what occurred with the abrupt closure of Homewood earlier this yr, and the premature dying of its proprietor.

Eater: Inform us about your job as government chef of latest idea improvement. How did it come to be?

Matt McCallister: Mike (Karns, Native Favourite CEO) has been a daily of mine on and off by the years. When every little thing went down at Homewood, I had no clue what I used to be going to do. He texted me, and we ended up speaking about life and what we had been engaged on. The dialog led to a cool thought of a job for me. Being a chef has its perks, however it has its challenges. Being overly artistic, I’m not good at numbers. I’ve the chance to be taught and assist beginning new ideas. I come from working small, rogue, chef-driven eating places. There’s an entire group on this (firm) that owns 50+ eating places.

You’re not the primary chef I’ve heard say this yr that they’d choose to deal with the artistic facets. Is that the place you’re at?

I additionally want and need to get good at enterprise; it’s essential. However I’m not an knowledgeable. It’s essential for me to have individuals assist me. (Karns) desires me to make superior issues that style good. I get new ideas going and buttoned up, after which the operations group takes over and retains it going in some unspecified time in the future.

A bowl of ceviche with ahi tuna sits in aguachile with radishes and jalapenos on top.

Tuna uncooked with inexperienced macha and aguachile inexperienced juice
Kayla Enright

It’s attention-grabbing for you since you’ve achieved all these smaller, bespoke eating places.

On the finish of the day, if I can get into a task the place I can get residence at 7 p.m. to hang around with my children, that’s the function that I choose to be in. I’ve crushed 100-hour weeks. I don’t simply want my cooks to discover ways to develop up; I would like my children to. Generally, I really feel like I spend extra time educating (cooks) than my children. Not that I thoughts as a result of the individuals who work for me grow to be part of me. However I sit again often and suppose I ought to attempt to train my children this stuff.

When Homewood closed, many individuals had been shocked you weren’t an proprietor. Is that this stage of involvement extra aligned with what you need to be doing?

Initially, I used to be going to be a companion. I used to be nonetheless coping with chapter stuff from Filament, and I didn’t want possession on my paper after I was nonetheless making an attempt to clear up the wreckage from my previous. (Editor’s word: McCallister and his companions allegedly broke the lease on that restaurant when it closed in 2017 and the owner sued for $1 million.) (Michael Barnett and I) had a deal on a handshake, however then by no means revisited it. I’d have been in all that if I had been an equal companion. I used to be completely satisfied to not have that burden. It’s loads to hold the stress — navigating COVID was sufficient to make me need to by no means cook dinner once more. At one level, I used to be identical to, fuck this. Now, my head is in a superb place. I’m targeted on extra essential priorities in life than making fancy meals that impresses fancy meals individuals.

A bowl of butternut squash soup with matcha and pepitas sits on a table.

Crema de Calabaza with butternut squash, peanut salsa macha, maple crema, and ginger pepitas
Kayla Enright

How about UnaVida — had been you part of the event of it?

It’s a collaborative effort. Now we have advanced and I don’t even know what number of iterations of the menu we’ve gone by, however loads. You may are available, actually not speak to anybody, and order from a QR code. Or you can have a standard expertise. We’re nonetheless tinkering with determining the best way to course it out. Our method to the menu is looking for a holistic method not simply taking a look at value however at diet, with good vegan and vegetarian choices. It’s a Mexican restaurant that’s an all-day cafe.

What’s a dish that encompasses the spirit of the menu?

The rainbow trout that’s on the night menu. It’s farm-raised and sourced nicely. We sear it and serve it on a pipian mole. It’s made with inexperienced pumpkin seeds fried closely in avocado oil. It develops a pleasant inexperienced coloration, and we sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds round it. And we add slivered, pickled onions within the model of a basic taqueria, together with a lime wedge. It’s so easy, only a lovely piece of seared complete trout with no head — two filets with a tail on it sitting on a plate. That’s how I prefer to eat — quite simple. I would like protein and sauce, and this menu is navigable like that. With easy dishes like this, you aren’t hiding behind many issues and it must be achieved nicely.

A pair of trout filets sit on a green dish, atop a green mole. Pumpkin seeds, a lime wedge, and pickled onions decorate the plate.

Rainbow trout with pipian mole
Kayla Enright

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

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