10 Questions with Matt Ginn

Words & Photo by Isabelle Hinckley

We sat down with Matt Ginn of Evo Kitchen + Bar and asked him some burning questions, from the best date night to the cooking utensil he can’t live without.

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What did you have for dinner last night?

MG: Last night I had pasta. I roasted a chicken and made a sauce for glazing vegetables. I left work and got home early, so I made dinner for my whole family.

What’s your go-to quick and easy meal for your family at home?

MG: That’s a tough one, I have a lot of back pocket dishes I can just go for. Fish tacos is a nice one, quick and simple. My son loves fried eggplant, so I actually did some fried eggplant with the pasta last night. He’s three and will eat vegetables if I fry them up like that. But I guess I don’t usually go for quick and simple meals, to be honest. On Sundays when I have a day off I cook all day. I enjoy that, to take some time to cook for my family.

Best date night in Portland?

MG: Jeez, I haven’t been on a date in a long time. But dinner at Evo and then a movie at Nickelodeon.

Who makes the most Instagram-worthy craft cocktail?

MG: I always like everything I have at Hunt and Alpine Club, it’s a nice place to get a cocktail. I’ve gotten some great drinks at Blyth & Burrows, too. I think Michael Gatlin is a great bar manager, he makes wonderful drinks.

Place you eat the most often on days off?

MG: Having a 3-year-old and 1-month-old daughter, Flatbread is very convenient and easy with kids. He can watch the boats, and it’s okay if he’s loud and rambunctious. Elsmere Barbecue in South Portland is good too. Again, places where it’s okay if he’s loud and gets up out of his seat and where he doesn’t have to be strapped in the whole time.

Most underrated restaurant recommendation?

MG: I think Isa Bistro has gotten a lot of love recently, but I still will recommend it to people and they’re like, “Isa? Where?” More people should know about them. The food is phenomenal. They do some seasonal stuff, and the menu is very welcoming. They have this braised rabbit and garganelli dish that I just crave, I absolutely love it.

Favorite ingredient to work with?

MG: At my house or in the restaurant, we always have shallot and garlic on hand. But there are actually four things you’ll always find in my house: butter, shallot, garlic, and lemon. Fresh lemon, for lemon juice and zest. Those will just always be in my house, and always be in my restaurants. 

Cooking utensil you can’t live without?

MG: At home, I can’t live without a good, sharp knife. And then in a restaurant, you got to have a Vita-Prep. There’s not a blender that compares to it – it has like a lawn mower engine in it. They make other brands, but you just won’t get your purées as smooth. The Vita-Prep is a beast. 

Most embarrassing cooking moment?

MG: I can think of a lot. You got to be broken and built back up more than once! I worked at a few restaurants in Boston where the chefs were pretty intense. There was one chef in particular who I really looked up to, he was very talented, and I learned a lot from him. He was a total jerk to me, but I didn’t realize how much he was actually helping me. Anyways, this guy would yell at me all the time. I remember we had this foie gras dish that had a little nougatine on it, a little candied nut that we were torching. I left the torch on and then just kept cooking. And it wasn’t even so much like a technical mistake with the food, but this guy who I looked up to so much comes over to me, turns off the torch and grabs me by the shirt and says, “Do you even know what you’re doing in here?” And it just hurt. I mean, I’m back here sweating and trying so hard. It was just the tone and the disdain.

Person you would most like to cook for?

MG: Probably my Nana and Grandpa. They’re not alive anymore and they never got to see this restaurant, so I’d really like to cook for them here. But for someone famous? Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Big Celtics fan.

Q&AIsabelle Hinckley