Earlier this month, Old City’s Serrano restaurant announced a new executive chef: Matthew Daggett, formerly of Devil’s Den. Daggett, who refers to himself as a military brat, came to the states from Germany a decade ago, where he began his kitchen days at a Pocono’s diner. We caught up with chef to chat about getting his footing at his new job.
What’s it like walking into the kitchen as the executive chef? Is it a lot to take over?
Every chef organizes things differently and uses different equipment and a variety of ingredients. So I come in and get in the head of the previous chef to make the machine work and then make it my own. You make some tweaks because you can’t do it all at once. We rolled out my new menu and it’s been successful. I’m working on the bar menu as we speak. I was at Devil’s Den for five years, so I was used to that setup.
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Were you stolen from Devil’s Den?
[laughs] I guess you could say that. But no, I was the one looking. It just ended up that this is the perfect place for me. Devil’s Den was a little too casual for what I wanted to put on a plate. Here I get the opportunity to turn it up a notch.
Do you have a favorite ingredient for this time of year?
Ramps – I love them. I look forward to this time of year, it’s my Christmas. I do everything I can with them. I want to make a ramp-style dinner. Hopefully we can set that up before late April, at the peak of the season.
Are you into cooking competitions and collaborations?
Totally. It’s not something that was really afforded to me in my last job. They’re big on that here, though. I know we want to do something with the Garage on Passyunk and over at the COOK kitchen. That might be in May. And then Taste of the Nation, I’m doing that. There’s a ton of stuff rolling in, which is great because I want to do as much as possible and get outside of the kitchen once in a while.