Matt Valdez will never cook on a gas grill again. Not after roasting on a wood-burning grill, the method that he uses as sous chef of Park 75 restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta. He gets his inspiration for the restaurant’s tasting menu from the kitchen’s rooftop garden. Valdez is a hands-on kind of chef and enjoys butchering a nice cut of meat. Read on to learn more behind the scenes of a hotel kitchen.
How does working in a hotel differ from a traditional restaurant?
The biggest learning curve is the multiple outlets off of one line. I’ll look at my reservations board and it may say 32 reservations but that is only for the main dining room. It doesn’t account for room service or our bar and lounge area.
It seems as if there is a fair bit of mental math involved.
Definitely. I am constantly gathering data from the front desk to see how many people are in the hotel. I check on events happening in the city because if there’s a sporting event or concert it has a direct impact on business.
Where do you spend most of your time in the kitchen?
My main focus is looking at the day-to-day functions. I need to be clued into the overall picture, but mainly I do the inventory to ensure that the line has the right ingredients.
In the kitchen, there are walk-ins for every part of the plate, from vegetables and fruits to meat and condiments. Why so many?
In a hotel you do such large volume that you need multiple walk-ins. I spend about an hour each morning doing inventory. People want berries every day, no matter the season so we always have a fresh stock. A big challenge in hotel restaurants is finding the balance of what customers want and holding onto strict seasonality.
So how much of the produce from the rooftop garden is the restaurant able to use daily?
We fully utilize the garden, specifically for our chef’s tasting menu. It is hard to put something we’re growing on the menu because we may not have enough, but with the chef’s tasting we have a creative outlet and get our inspiration based on what looks good for the day.
How do you decide on the chef’s tasting menu?
It changes daily based on the ingredients available. I have a creative team so they have free reign. We try to create synergy between the courses so it doesn’t look like four people made the menu. It gives us the ability to create some unique dishes.
What is your favorite part of the hands-on cooking process at Park 75?
My main job is butchering the proteins for the line. The wood burning grill makes a world of difference on the flavor of meats. It gives them a nice char and they look visually appealing. The smoky taste and smell engages all of your senses.
Below are a few fun facts about Park 75 by the numbers:
-By Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog