Matt McCallister is the no-nonsense chef at the Design District's FT33. The restaurant is his first solo venture, which he opened in October 2012 at the age of 31. Since then, McCallister has gained local and national acclaim, with a glowing five-star review from The Dallas Morning News, a Restaurant of the Year nod by D Magazine, a listing in the Top 50 New Restaurants from Bon Appétit, Food & Wine Best New Chef designation and semifinalist nominations in the James Beard Foundation Awards for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
We recently spoke with McCallister to get to know the man behind the awards and the creator of some of the most innovative plates in the city.
Dallas Design District: What’s your favorite thing about Dallas?
DDD: What do you love about being in the Design District?
I like the Design District because it’s growing and, for the most part, undiscovered.
DDD: How did you know you wanted to become a chef?
I’ve always loved cooking and I'm a fairly intense person, so it was just the perfect fit.
DDD: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
Getting a really bad review when I was the chef at Stephan Pyles. Reading it was tough, but as a team, we combed through the criticism and, in the end, it motivated us to work even harder and offer better food. It was rewarding for me to watch our kitchen come together and produce something better than before the review.
DDD: Who has influenced you most?
My mother and father.
DDD: Where is your favorite place to travel for inspiration?
DDD: What's your favorite dish to cook? To eat?
DDD: If you weren't a chef, what would you do?
Be a farmer.
DDD: What's currently your favorite culinary trend?
I don't really have one. Our menu at FT33 is constantly changing due to seasonality, availability and a variety of inspirational sources. A lot of people identify "trends" as what's in season. Right now some people might say mushrooms or root vegetables are "trending" when they're just currently in peak season. For example, tonight we're offering a scallop crudo with grapefruit, yuzu and royal black trumpet mushrooms, as well as braised short rib with local kale, shiitake mushrooms, satsuma and smoked olive. So, we're less concerned about trends and more interested in seasonality.
DDD: Finish this sentence: "Every kitchen should have..."
Salt, butter and lemon juice.
McCallister finds inspiration for FT33's evolving menu in seasonal ingredients. He and his crew create handcrafted dishes with quality vegetables, herbs, meats and fruits, finding inventive ways to add complexity. A meal at FT33 progresses from beginning, to middle, to end with a clear focus on the parts that make up the whole. Make a reservation soon to taste for yourself!