You know those times when you meet someone and there is an instant connection?
Where you fall into a conversation as if you have known each other all your life?
That’s how it was when I met Chef Matt Basile, or as many people know him Fidel Gastro.
I’d been hearing about this Fidel Gastro guy for some time from mutual friends and the movers and shakers in the Toronto food scene. The buzz kept building as he moved from pop-up guy, to food truck guy with Fidel Gastro’s Priscilla to restaurateur guy with Lisa Marie on Queen West, to tv show guy with Rebel Without A Kitchen. I’d seen photos, read articles, and even eaten his food. I recognized quickly that this Matt guy was hitting the scene and making a mark. However, I’d never actually met him until I went to Lisa Marie to take my best friend, Alex, out for his birthday.
It was unusually quiet on Queen West as we walked west from Bathurst under the full moon, and I assured Alex that this would be a fun and very tasty birthday meal. We ordered a couple of shareable items and a couple of beers. As soon as we had tried the first 2 dishes, we proceeded to order every small plate item on the menu. Some of them twice. It was the least I could do for my friend’s birthday… besides the food was excellent!
When I saw Matt pop out of the kitchen, I zipped up to the bar to introduce myself and we ended up in a 20 minute discussion. We got on a roll and talked about everything from food to Canadian Beef to life to family to travel to love to film to … remembering I left my friend alone at the table on his birthday!
Luckily, I left Alex there with a full beer and dishes coming to the table at regular intervals, but still, it showed me a couple of things: 1. my best friend is a very understanding person, thank you Alex; 2. I can be a bit of a douche; 3. Matt and I really connected on more than a “hey will you send me a recipe for my blog” kind of way; and 4. I really wanted to see, and taste, what recipe Matt would send in if he was part of our Chefs #LoveCDNbeef series.
Matt’s food is interesting, flavourful, smart and fun. His continuing work doing pop-ups, running the food truck, and Lisa Marie gives him immediate feedback on his food and flavour combinations, and that makes for a nimble and exciting menu.
Lisa Marie even has a little take-home shop beside the kitchen where you can get many of the preserves they use in the restaurant, food truck and catering. Alongside the preserves there are ready-to-cook dishes you can pick up for an at-home Fidel Gastro’s experience.
Last time I was in I snagged ½ a smoked chicken and some of the Alabama Tailgators (which I keep referring to as Matt’s “alligator things” – which are bacon, beef carpaccio and cheese all bundled up together, deep fried and delicious!)
Someone recently asked me what kind of food Matt made… I stumbled. The food is a little different at each of his Fidel Gastro endeavours. It’s not food truck food, though the influences are there. It’s not fine dining. It’s not really the full-on hipster dining shtick. It’s not tapas or exclusively small plates, though a lot of the dishes at Lisa Marie are perfect for sharing and eating with your fingers, both things that I love. (The writing on the wall, literally, calls these dishes Cicchetti – [chi-KET-tee] think Italian/Venetian tapas.)
With Matt’s strong connection to his family-roots, this Italian influence shows subtly in a lot of his food through sauces, ingredients and approach. It’s there right alongside Cuban, Mexican, American, and Korean… and frankly anything else that strikes Matt’s fancy or palate. From the cicchetti to the full plate specials, it works.
So why bother defining it… let’s just eat and enjoy.
While Matt says “I’m not a Chef” because he’s self-trained, Matt has made waves. Big enough waves that he’s about to start filming his second season of the Food Network’s Rebel without a Kitchen. That, plus this year’s opening of Lisa Marie on Queen West, and I think rebel Matt is going to have to own “Chef” and maybe even admit to having a kitchen.
So how about I let Matt tell you about himself with his Quick Fire Q&A
Quick Fire Questions:
What is your best kitchen tip for working with Canadian Beef?
Fat is your friend
How do you like your steak?
What do you put on your burger?
Bacon jam, processed cheese, pickles and homemade pineapple chili ketchup from Lisa Marie
Do you have a specific butcher, farm or vendor you go to to get your Canadian Beef?
What is your favourite cut of Canadian Beef?
Bone-in tenderloin steaks
Your favourite seasoning to use with beef?
[I knew we were sympatico! – lex]
Your favourite side dish to go with a nice roast?
Grilled asparagus with lemon and parmigiana
What do you drink with beef?
Pinot noir or steam whistle
Who else does beef right, i.e. what is best restaurant (other than yours) to order Canadian beef (any style)?
What cut of beef do you think is under-utilized in home kitchens these days?
What is the most adventurous beef dish you’ve seen, made or eaten?
Deli-style beef tongue sandwiches
A bit more about Matt
Matt Basile is the creator of the Toronto-based food-experience company, Fidel Gastro’s. With a unique direction on catering large parties and weddings, a well-known food truck, a new resto Lisa Marie, on Queen W and a TV show, Rebel Without A Kitchen the company Fidel Gastro’s always looks to pair fun food with marketable ideas.
Chef Matt Basile’s Chefs #LoveCDNBeef Recipe:
Note: this post is part of my Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador series. For more information on my relationship with Canada Beef Inc read about my Foodie Adventure: I’m a Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador. #LoveCdnBeefand my disclosure statement