Canadian Chefs in Conversation: Matthew Batey, Calgary AB

by Krlmagi

Chef Matthew Batey takes a sustainable, local and seasonal approach to cuisine that respects the integrity of each ingredient at The Nash and Off Cut Bar in Calgary.

Chef Matthew Batey’s path towards a culinary career started when he cooked with his father as a child. His father had a high level executive job and his mother was a nurse. His father did most of the cooking and Batey says, “My dad enjoyed cooking and I really enjoyed spending time with him so cooking was another way to get more time with him.” Batey started cooking professionally at the age of fourteen and his career continued to progress from there on.

Chef Matthew Batey at work.
Chef Matthew Batey at work.

There are a number of chefs who have influenced Batey’s culinary direction. He makes special mention of Chef Bruno Marti  and Chef Michael Noble (chef/owner of The Nash) and and explains, “They represent the grandfather, father type lineage in my culinary world. I’m kind of like the third generation of that lineage. Michael was my mentor, Bruno was Michael’s mentor and I worked for both of them.”

Batey also mentions Chefs David Hammond and Iain Rennie with whom he worked at the Fairmont Empress hotel in Victoria as well as Chef Michael Pelletier who was an influential culinary instructor for him and helped get Batey the apprenticeship at the Fairmont Empress.

The approach that Batey takes to food was forged during his time in the Okanagan. He uses local ingredients and looks for people who use fully sustainable practices in everything from agriculture to fish certified by the Ocean Wise program. His West Coast background means that fish cookery is another big part of his approach to food. He adds that moving to Calgary hasn’t altered the cornerstones of his cooking.

The difference between Kelowna and Calgary has caused Batey to adjust a few parts of what he does. He explains, “The difference is that in Kelowna, I was spoiled to have as many world class ingredients as I did that were grown locally. Now that I’m in the big city, I still have exposure to those products but it’s really the same song, just a different day.”

His cooking centres around “amazing prairie-grown crops mixed with a few of the suppliers and amazing artisans with whom I’ve developed relationships over the years. The two that spring to mind are Farmhouse Natural Cheeses out of Agassiz B.C. and Moonstruck Organic Cheeses out of Salt Spring Island. ”

He adds, “It’s also great to be closer to people like Tony and Penny Marshall who run Highwood Crossing down in High River. They’ve been friends of mine for years and it’s nice to be able to work closely with them and in a marketplace where their products are highly recognized.”

Marinated beetroot Salad: Lady Jane cheese, basil, hazelnuts.
Marinated beetroot Salad: Lady Jane cheese, basil, hazelnuts.

The relationships that Batey has developed as a chef are a key part of who he is. These relationships extend from the producers and the ingredients themselves to the cooks in his brigade and the people dining in the restaurant.

Another part of the philosophical approach that Batey and Nash team take to the restaurant is their emphasis on accessibility for a broad clientele. He explains, “You can come and have a $100 bottle of wine and spend a lot of money or you can cozy up to the rotisserie bar and have the best burger you’ve ever tasted in your life, have a beer and still get out of here in your blue jeans.”

He wants to stay away from the pretention of fine dining restaurants but says, “I haven’t lost any of the fine dining philosophy or technique but everything gets presented in a more approachable way but the quality of the ingredients, the technique and the dedication to craft is still there whether there’s ten moves on the plate or two moves on the plate. I’m still the same culinarian.”

Roasted duck breast: pain perdu, Bing cherry, Josper shallot
Roasted duck breast: pain perdu, Bing cherry, Josper shallot

The Nash and the Off Cut Bar change the menus quite frequently which presents a challenge for Batey but his approach to menu creation remains consistent. He works in close collaboration with his culinary team. While he provides the vision and drives the program, the team has strong input in the creative process. Batey adds, “There are also the overarching principles of the chef/owner Michael Noble. I’m really lucky that because Michael is my mentor because he’s responsible for shaping a lot of my style and philosophy as a chef.”

Dedication to his craft and an approach that embraces the changing culinary world are both important pieces of Batey’s character as a chef. He believes that one can’t employ modern  culinary techniques and methods without an understanding of the classical way of cooking that ingredient or dish.

In terms of his approach to dealing with people, Batey was trained in the old school way that was much more aggressive but he explains, “Gone are the days of yelling, screaming and berating people. We don’t manage people with fear any more. Now it’s about empowering people to correct a mistake or learn something new.”

Having young cooks with the right attitude and personality traits is important when Batey’s looking to hire a new cook for his team. He says, “I can teach you how to cut something, I can teach you how to cook something but I can’t teach you how to care.”

Motivation comes from the constant pursuit of perfection for Batey. He realizes that nothing can be truly perfect, but he wants to strive to do the best job at all times.  This desire to do his best comes from a commitment to respecting the hard work that went into the product he uses as well as the hard earned money of his guests. He adds, “I’m really excited to be able to collaborate with Chef Noble at the Nash in the historic community of Inglewood.”

This profile is based on an interview with Matthew Batey conducted and recorded on Oct. 7, 2015.

Updated: 11/08/2015, Krlmagi
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