City Tech alumnus Matthew MacCartney ’94 recently received the 2014 Food & Wine “People’s Best New Chef in New England” award for his work at Jamestown Fish restaurant. The People’s Best New Chef program, an annual contest now in its fourth year, honors talented up-and-coming innovators who have run their own kitchens for fewer than five years. The field of nominees—chosen by Food & Wine—included 10 chefs in 10 regions across America. The chef with the most votes in each region was named the “People’s Best New Chef.”
“I’m humbled and inspired,” said MacCartney, when asked what it meant to him to win the award, “To be put into that group was amazing—not only were we nominated by Food & Wine but we were ‘seconded’ by the people who voted for us, and that was a very good feeling.”
MacCartney earned a B.Tech degree in Hospitality Management/Culinary Arts at City Tech and studied at the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism & Creative Studies in Birmingham, England. He also earned a Level 4 Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust in 2002, and in 2008 was published in Wine & Spirits magazine.
MacCartney credits City Tech faculty with his introduction to some of the best chefs in the world: “At the time I enrolled in City Tech, the elite culinary programs weren’t sending their students to Europe for apprenticeships. My professors had connections at some of the greatest restaurants in Europe and had the confidence in me to push me to go to France and Italy. ‘Don’t worry about the language,’ Professor Francis Lorenzini told me, ‘just get over there and start working in the kitchen.’ From the beginning, my career was set through those connections.”
Once in Europe things progressed quickly for MacCartney. He was still a teenager during his first apprenticeship at the two-star Michelin Hostellerie de Levernois in Burgundy and during his second apprenticeship at the three-star Michelin restaurant Michel Guérard. The opportunities kept coming.
In 1993, the president of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini, asked City Tech to choose a student to represent the school and partake in a three-week, full immersion in Piedmont, Italy, to study the wine and food of the Langhe. “I was chosen along with nine other Americans from schools such as the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) and Cornell. That was the trip that sparked my love of wine, and, from then on, I began studying the subject in depth,” said MacCartney.
MacCartney has worked at the world renowned Cibrèo in Florence, Italy, and in the dining rooms and kitchens of New York’s finest establishments such as Restaurant Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, and Craft. He opened Craft in 2001 as the Beverage Director and was voted Best Wine Director in 2003 by the readers of TimeOut NY magazine.
Leo Caproni, a retired City Tech professor and one of MacCartney’s mentors, introduced MacCartney to the world-famous wine expert Kevin Zraly. “Matthew was one of the most outstanding students I’ve ever had. His work at the college was A-number one,” said Caproni. And Professor Julia Jordan recalled that “Matthew was eager and thirsty for opportunities beyond the classroom; by generously volunteering at city-wide food and tasting benefits, he ‘rubbed elbows’ with chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers and farmers. Those experiences also helped him envision his dream.”
MacCartney believes in giving back and has strong ties to his alma mater. As a first-year student, MacCartney volunteered by doing the coat check for the first Chefs Celebrate City Tech, a scholarship fundraiser that features a tasting menu created by leading chefs. Just a few months ago, he volunteered at the most recent Chefs Celebrate event as one of those leading chefs, where he interacted with Hospitality Management students working the event—no doubt inspiring the next generation of culinary super-stars.
In addition to his role as executive chef, MacCartney is a partner at Jamestown Fish and has been involved since its inception in December 2011. He is also the restaurant’s wine director overseeing its 500-plus selection wine list. Jamestown Fish is a casually elegant Rhode Island restaurant serving a European-inspired seafood-based cuisine. In 2012 and 2013, Jamestown Fish won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, Rhode Island Monthly’s Best of Rhode Island in 2012, and numerous OpenTable Diners’ Choice awards.
“To be in such a small market in a small town, the odds were against us [to win the Food & Wine award]. But one of the things working in Europe taught me was that great restaurants can be in small towns, and, if you are doing a good job, folks will travel to you,” said MacCartney.