Like most chefs, Matt Christianson prides himself on his delicately prepared dishes. However, chef Christianson not only dedicates endless care and attention to his meal preparations, but also places great value on the well-nurtured relationships he possesses with local farmers. Christianson currently holds the title of executive chef at the Urban Farmer Steakhouse in Portland, Oregon, where he excitedly shares his many years of experience learning how to unite his “love of working with farmers and local product with his affinity with for urban environment.”
Chef Christianson made his initial entrance into the kitchen as a line cook in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he worked for four years at the award-winning Fanny Hill Victoria Inn. After eventually making the move to Evanston, Illinois, to study at the Culinary Institute of America, Christianson graduated with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and began his journey to further harness his craft for “green-style” eating with stellar customer satisfaction.
From culinary school, Christianson traveled across the country to work with Bradley Ogden and the Lark Creek Restaurant Group where he quickly worked his way up the ranks to executive chef at the group’s Lark Creek Inn. While there, Christianson got a taste for farm-to-table cuisine, and “loved cultivating relationships with local farmers and growers.”
Now overseeing a staff of 75 at the Urban Farmer, chef Christianson focuses on “redefining the modern steakhouse with an emphasis on Northwest, sustainable ingredients and simple, straightforward preparations.” We caught up with chef Christianson, to talk about the renewable restaurant business, his vision for the Urban Farmer and more.
As the Urban Farmer executive chef, you pride yourself on “redefining the modern steakhouse with an emphasis on Northwest, sustainable ingredients and simple, straightforward preparations.” What does that mean exactly?
It is important that the food in Urban Farmer has a regional familiarity. It helps define a sense of place that is experienced through all your senses.
What does it take to be a truly “green” restaurant?
This is a very subjective term. For me it is based on your intentions and your ability to sustain practices that support the lives of our guests and the community we live in.
I read that your largest influence is the “regional food culture of San Francisco from 1999 to 2005.” Tell us a little bit about the food culture during this time? What food staples from that time period do you most strongly draw inspiration from?
One of my personal pleasures is Figs. Remembering how special they were to find at the markets set me on a quest for the best things available from all farms and purveyors and as close to picking the produce myself as possible. Ever since then it has been a personal mission.
I know you take pride in maintaining excellent relationships with farmers. How do you cater to these farmers and ensure a strong, supportive relationship?
The most important part of any relationship is listening and gaining an understanding of the struggles and aspirations of others. My respect for their dedication to the land runs deep.
How do you feel the location of the Urban Farmer in Portland affects the style and overall ambiance of the restaurant?
The Pacific Northwest is all about the outdoors. The food supports whatever adventures you may be on or returning from. It is a feeling of a home away from yours where life can be better.
What is one of your personal favorite dishes to prepare?
Steamed Whole dungeness crab with warm butter. The simple taste of the sweet cold northern oceans.
Where would you like to see the Urban Farmer in 5-10 years? Do you plan to expand?
Urban Farmer’s growth will continue to enter into and influence the growing global food community. Look for more soon.