by Cheryl Baehr
Perhaps there has never been a better fit between chef and restaurant than Matt Galati and the Dam (3173 Morganford Road; 314-771-3173). "Can I say smoking pot is my daily ritual," the irreverent burger master laughs (ahem, joking, of course) as he buttons up a fresh chef coat over a loud T-shirt. Indeed, there's no mistaking the Amsterdam vibe at the Dam -- it's the monstrous, juicy burgers and over-the-top accoutrements make the little south-city burger shack a paradise for those with the munchies.
But to see the Dam as simply a stoner or soccer hooligan hangout (it's adjacent to the Amsterdam Tavern soccer bar) would be incorrect. Galati may not take himself too seriously, but he is committed to serving up some of the best burgers in town using local and sustainably raised meats and produce. He took a break from concocting this signature fast "slow food" to share his thoughts on the St. Louis dining scene, his last meal on Earth and who really serves as the inspiration for his wacky concoctions.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? I wish people realized how much work goes into this. It is nothing short of a pure and daily dedication. This isn't a job to me; this is who I am. I wake up and fall asleep here. Oh, and that I'm single.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Smoking pot is totally the answer to this question (wink, wink).
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? To be able to fly through any medium.
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? I think the use of local and fresh foods and locally crafted artisan products are the most positive trends -- they are absolutely a blast to work with. I try not to look for what's hot, but what's good. The thing is, there are restaurants that are now landmarks, and offer a better all around experience to the whole of the scene. I really love how the microbrewery thing has bloomed.
Who is your St. Louis food crush? Really it's my daughter, Aurora. She is always coming up with some crazy little foods, and I absolutely love her.
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? Watch out for me! I am armed with a culinary degree and knives. Pretty serious.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Pasta. It has so many incarnations, so many different presentations, and it is the stage for every ingredient in the world to make a guest appearance. In all of its simplicity, it really has the ability to do anything.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? Honestly, I would say that this city is so fresh that it isn't even tipping the culinary iceberg. There are never enough restaurants.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Durian fruit. Thanks, Gerard Craft.
What is your after work hangout? 2720 Cherokee Performing Arts Center.
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? Gummi bears and rum, but there is no guilt.
What would be your last meal on Earth? It would be an all-you-can-eat buffet made by Anthony Bourdain and Tommy Chong.