In the iconic film, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy repeats, “There is no place like home.”
Tullibee’s executive chef, Matt Leverty, seemingly took this pertinent statement to heart, as the Stillwater native returned to his home state of Minnesota in 2016 and has continued to heat up the kitchen.
The 35-year-old chef spent much of the past decade in Las Vegas, in addition to stops all around the world. Matt admits he learned a lot in Vegas and “got all he could from the city,” but it was time to move on.
“Vegas is one of those places where it’s good for a long weekend, but it’s not good to set up shop 10-plus years,” he says. “I was missing home.”
Matt, who launched his culinary career in 2006 at Wolfgang Puck’s 20.21 in Minneapolis, came back with a mission. “I wanted to make a name for myself in my home state,” he says.
Lovers of fine and adventurous food can get a firsthand look at the chef’s prowess in the kitchen. Matt is currently hosting at Tullibee private chef’s dinners for up to 20 guests once a month, with the 10-12-course tasting menus all created by the chef himself. The dishes go well with wine pairings, and Matt personally comes out and explains each course.
“So this was one of the carrots that was dangled in front of me when I came here,” Matt says. “the ability to be able to cook really whatever I want. And the chef’s dinners really give me the option to do that.”
Matt now sees the kitchen as a playground of sorts. As the executive chef, he enjoys complete freedom in curating his tasting menus. Nothing is off-limits. “I explain to the guests when they come in that a lot of it we’re trying out for the first time,” he says.
There is more to this immersive culinary experience. Matt says the guests can tour the kitchen and even have cocktails on the hotel’s rooftop.
“We really want to make it a fun experience,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of repeat guests, which has been great.”
Matt believes what separates Tullibee from other restaurants is its focus on local ingredients. Other than the scallops that originate from the East Coast, “about 99%” of food products are sourced within 150 miles of Minneapolis.
In addition to having its own fermentation room, the restaurant also engages in whole animal butchery, where it receives the various meats from local farms with butchering done in-house.
“That is something that is really rare, mainly because of the real estate it takes up to have a butchery program,” Matt says.
Despite his seemingly limitless imagination inside the kitchen, it doesn’t take much to impress Matt outside it. A good burger or chicken and dumplings will do just fine.
“People always think that it must be hard to make you happy when you go out to eat,” he says. “You give me a nice burger ... or something simple, it’s great.”
For more information on Tullibee’s dining, visit HewingHotel.com.
Reach Ethen Kim Lieser at Lieser_E@yahoo.com.
“We really want to make it a fun experience. We’ve had a lot of repeat guests, which has been great.”