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Behind the Scenes: Matt Valdez of Park 75

3_25_Valdez

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:

  • Number of line cooks – 4
  • Dinner rush – 7:00-8:00 PM
  • Temperature of wood-burning grill – 800 degrees
  • Number of walk-ins – 8
  • Pounds of honey produced last year from rooftop beehives – 200

-By Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog

26 comments Add your comment

Logical Dude

March 25th, 2014
1:04 pm

okay, what’s a “walk-in”? I understand the term as someone who walks in without a reservation, but have never heard the term in relation to items on the plate.

Doc Hollidawg

March 25th, 2014
1:17 pm

Walk in freezers/refigerators.

Abby James

March 25th, 2014
1:42 pm

Great article! I never realized how much preparation is involved in restaurant cooking!

Leftover Spaghetti

March 25th, 2014
2:18 pm

@Logical Dude, he means walk-in closet. From the context you can see that he likes to keep strict control over his chef coats and hats and he keeps them all in a walk-in closets located throughout the hotel so that if he is in one part of the hotel and his clothes get dirty he can quickly change clothes without having to walk through the hotel with a dirty apron or jacket.
He also keeps berries in the closet. since they get a fresh shipment daily there is no need to refrigerate them. You’re welcome.

Hank Hill

March 25th, 2014
2:48 pm

The only woman I’m pimping is sweet lady propane! And I’m tricking her out all over this town.

Taste the meat—NOT the heat!

Propane and propane accessories rule!!!!!

Baltisraul....

March 25th, 2014
4:07 pm

Hank Hill…….Taste the meat–not the heat, have no idea what that means. My guess you ain’t from around here! In the South, you grill with wood or charcoal. Propane are for the folks that think it is too big a mess and takes too long to use the legit method. Grilling is a mind set and so is Bar-B-Que cooking. Either embrace it or you buy propane and pretend.

Boomhauer

March 25th, 2014
6:52 pm

man o man its—hmmmm,like—propane–you know,yeah–Hank, he don’t ,um,like charcoal.

berry steve

March 25th, 2014
10:00 pm

@Hank Hill_______You graduated from the University of Mars, right?

Dale Gribble

March 26th, 2014
8:02 am

Mars?—hush, they can hear you. Martians have infiltrated our society and run all the Kwiky marts. Soon they will rise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All hail Mars, our soon to be masters!

Marsh

March 26th, 2014
8:04 am

There are people that haven’t seen King of the Hill? Greatest show to ever grace the idiot box, people.

Hank Hill: I’m trying to contain an outbreak and you’re driving the monkey to the airport!

Also, nice article.

berry steve

March 26th, 2014
8:26 am

Marsh…..you are correct, I have no idea what King of the Hill is, sorry.

berry steve

March 26th, 2014
9:31 am

Marsh, called my grandson and asked about King Hill. He said it was a cartoon and it was a funny show. Have not done cartoon’s in quite a while. It may come on opposite a sporting event, so I would always miss it, it looks like and Sat mornings the tv is rarely on.

Ned Ludd

March 26th, 2014
10:03 am

Interesting to assume it is a Saturday morning cartoon, Believe it is in the evenings and addresses family and life obstacles we could all use help understanding. Is witty and funny. Obviously up against many intelligent and thought provoking sporting events.

Matt—Thanks for bringing a little personality and local bits into a major hotel chain. Typically avoid big hotels (except Hotel Arlen) because they are too corporate and cold. Look forward to visiting.

Hank,Bill,Boomhauer,Dale

March 26th, 2014
10:21 am

Matt—ya got Alamo beer?

Ned Ludd

March 26th, 2014
10:53 am

Menu has wood grilled Branzino–appears to be a European seabass—sounds great but have never had it. Is it an up and coming item? Is it available locally? Sounds like a place to visit this weekend.

berry steve

March 26th, 2014
2:01 pm

Ned, I am glad to report I don’t need cartoons to help with life’s obstacles. Witty & funny I can do but a 20 something comedy writer is not who I would go to for family value lessons. lol And yes, I will stick to my football, baseball, golf and hockey for my tv viewing pleasure. I am surprised that cartoons have left Sat. morning. Is nothing sacred?

Baltisraul....

March 26th, 2014
5:00 pm

Hey Ned, berry steve was not the only person not to know what King Hill was. Me too! Fraid I also gave up cartoons many years ago. Doubt Elmer Fudd could have saved my first marriage.

Do you think European Seabass is the same as the Seabass from Chili?

Ned Ludd

March 26th, 2014
5:30 pm

Well said berry steve—makes me wanna grab my Roy Rogers jammys and spend Sat. with Bullwinkle and Qeeksdraw.

Balt–Looked up the European seabass and seems to be somewhat different, sure it is similar. Would like to know more.

Marsh

March 27th, 2014
8:34 am

You old farts ever hear of The Simpsons? They used to broadcast together on Sunday nights. Now KotH is only on Adult Swim.

At least you didn’t pretend like you don’t own a TV, I suppose. Leave that to the EAV crowd.

King Hill

March 27th, 2014
1:52 pm

Yep, I post comments on a food blog but I’ve never heard of one of the highest rated animated series of all time. A show that has been on the air, in new episodes and syndication, for over 20 years.
A show set in the South with non-stop cultural references. But I’ve never heard of it.
In other words, I have a marginal perspective.

Ned Ludd

March 27th, 2014
3:22 pm

Marsh—Love KotH-am semi-old and often pass gas. Sorry to upset your demographics. Had to look up EAV—glad I did, now it makes sense.

Entity–attribute–value model (EAV) is a data model to describe entities where the number of attributes (properties, parameters) that can be used to describe them is potentially vast,

Baltisraul....

March 28th, 2014
6:33 am

Marsh….of course I have heard of the Simpson’s, I just never watched the show.

KingHill….sorry to disappoint you. I can only say this one way; I NEVER HEARD OF OR SAW THIS PROGRAM. My perspective is just fine, it just does not include cartoons.

Lizzy

March 28th, 2014
9:06 am

and the hijacking of the article was taken over, as always, by the regulars

Baltisraul....

March 28th, 2014
1:18 pm

Lizzy….I like your spirit!

Lizzy

March 28th, 2014
2:53 pm

Don’t be trying to go all Dr. Charm you hijacker, you regular you!!

Baltisraul....

March 28th, 2014
5:33 pm

A ‘regular’, god forbid. Those would be fight’n words if I was not laughing so hard. Don’t tell the boys down at the sanitation dept.!