MATT’S 3 STEPS TO AN EMPIRE WITH HEART
“When we started at Chiswick, we doubled what we thought we were going to do, so we extended the kitchen,” he recalls. “I love it. It’s the restaurant I probably eat at more than anywhere.”
It’s easy to dismiss one of the most famous restaurateurs in the country, owner of a hospitality empire that also spans the Solotel group, a multimillion dollar pub portfolio, as an endless well of cocksure confidence. But to do so would be to overlook Matt’s ability to go against popular opinion, veer off the path he’s built for himself and take big risks along the way.
On the media’s insistence that fine dining is dead, he says: “It’s like saying we’ll stop making luxury Audis; like saying there’ll be no more first-class air travel. People still want to be wooed!”
Then there’s his 2015 split with Peter Sullivan, his business partner of 24 years, to enter into a joint venture with Bruce Solomon, a mentor since his Paddington Inn days. Last year, he closed Aria for a scheduled three-month makeover.
“We did a compete refurb and spent many millions re-doing it,” he explains, smiling. “It’s [part of] our commitment to evolve.”
On his rare days off, Matt, who’s looking forward to a trip to Berlin, likes to ride his motorcycle, eat his way around the city and spend time with his family on the farm. Between running restaurants, building his empire and taking part in interviews like this one, does he miss the simple life of the teenage chef from the suburbs who found himself in food?
“I love the industry but cooking is a young man’s sport,” he laughs. “I still cook at home, though. My passion for it has never waned.”
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
“I’m lucky – I’ve got some great people around me. I’ve got a fantastic partner in life – Sarah’s got her own career and she’s very successful. I’m very lucky in that respect. Also, my business partner [Bruce Solomon] is a great man, mentor and friend.”
DEFINE SUCCESS ON YOUR OWN TERMS
“I think my biggest achievement in life is that I’m happy. I think if you’re happy and content, what more do you want? The fame, the money – that doesn’t matter.”
ALLOW YOUR MISSION TO EVOLVE AS YOU DO
“I think the older I get, the more I want to give back. [Now] that we’re a big company we can offer people career progression. I also care more about food waste, the environment and how farmers are treated and looked after.”