Matthew Galvin, 26, is now executive chef of the Shaved Duck.
Even when he was a young kid, Matthew Galvin of the Shaved Duck (2900 Virginia Avenue, 314-776-1407)
realized he had it better than most kids when it came to dinner. "I kind of felt bad when I'd go to my friends' houses and they'd order pizza or whatever for dinner," Galvin recalls. "We did family dinner every night at my house, and a big one on Sundays — we still do. Food is how we come together as a family."
Not surprisingly in light of that upbringing, Galvin went straight into the restaurant business when he was old enough to get a job. His first gig was at a Swedish deli in his native Chicago, where he started as a dishwasher. As the chef expanded to included a restaurant and catering business, he took Galvin under his wing and taught him how to cook. "He taught me everything that I know and let me try everything that I wanted to do," says Galvin. "I worked my way up and never left the business."
Though Galvin enjoyed cooking, he felt pulled in another direction for his career. The son of a Chicago firefighter, he though he'd follow in his dad's footsteps. He pursued a medical sciences degree in college, only to drop out when he got into a molecular biology class. "I just knew it wasn't for me, so I had to think long and hard about what I know and like to do," says Galvin. "So I enrolled in a hospitality program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. After I graduated, I went to culinary school back in Chicago."
While in Carbondale, Galvin met his girlfriend, who followed him back to Chicago for cooking school. However, when she got into a graduate program at Saint Louis University last May, the couple decided to relocate, and Galvin had to scramble to get a job. The day they signed the lease on their apartment, the pair went to the Shaved Duck for a bite to eat, and Galvin was so blown away that he knew it's where he wanted to work.
"I was so impressed with everything they did that I asked my server for an application," Galvin recalls. "The next day I went in for an interview and got hired. I started out at the bottom and within a year, I've worked my way up to executive chef."
Now, as the one in charge of the Shaved Duck's kitchen, Galvin is able to cook the food that hooked him on the restaurant, while adding a bit of himself to the place. In that respect, Galvin insists it's less about a particular style of food and more about a feeling he likes to evoke. "I like to cook the sort of food that you like to have at home," he explains. "It's the sort of food that comforts people and reminds them of the good times in life."
Galvin took a break from the kitchen to share his thoughts on the St. Louis restaurant scene, his endless search for tamale carts and why there's more to his drumming skills than just hitting pots and pans.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
I wish my co-workers knew I am actually a decent drummer, not just someone who taps on pots and pans.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
Every morning I meet with our pitmaster, Brandi, to plan out our day. We always have a few laughs, too.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I wish I could have the ability to teleport.
What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
Although I have not lived in Saint Louis for a year, I have definitely noticed the emphasis of not only supporting local businesses, but fresh ingredients, too.
What is something missing in the local food, wine or cocktail scene that you’d like to see?
More tamale carts.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Marco Sanfilippo from Salume Beddu would be my first choice. The art of charcuterie is something I highly respect.
Who’s the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
I would have to say my neighbors Tara and Michael Gallina of Vicia.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Jalapeños would be a good personification of my character; they can be intense on their own, but can tie other ingredients together.
If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
I would be a musician, hands down.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
Although I don’t particularly dislike an ingredient, I hate chicken pot pie.
What is your after work hangout?
The Scottish Arms for a dram or a pint.
What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
I love the meat loaf we make at the Shaved Duck. I use it in a sandwich topped with French fries, a fried egg, and coleslaw. It’s probably enough daily calories for an average adult in one sitting.
What would be your last meal on earth?
My grandma’s lasagna.
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