2022 is just getting started for Executive Chef of The Hive, Matt McClure. With a 7th James Beard Semifinalist Nomination under his belt, Matt is bright-eyed for a brighter and busier year after two full years of operating The Hive through the Covid-19 pandemic. We sat down with him to chat about his recent accolades and what the future has in store.
Congratulations on your 7th James Beard nomination! This year Bentonville saw three semifinalist nominations, including yourself for the Best Chef, South category. Can you talk a bit about the significance of this for greater Bentonville? (Other JBF nominees were Chef Rafael Rios of Yeyo’s El Almo de Mexico for Best Chef, South and The Preacher’s Son for Outstanding Hospitality.)
This year was very special because it was such a great showing for the dining scene in Bentonville. It is really an achievement not just for the individuals but for the community that has been working for and supporting us for nearly a decade.
You’ve had a lot going on in the last month: another JBF semifinalist nomination in the books, you hosted a subsequent party at The Hive celebrating the other two Bentonville nominees, a trip to DC to meet up with the Care Organization to lobby for the advancement of global food security, a feature on HGTV’s newest season of Fixer to Fabulous, and you continue to run a restaurant during a global pandemic. Is there anything you don’t do? What have each of these things meant to you?
When you put it like that, it definitely feels like a lot! We have been so fortunate to be included in these incredible events. The JBF was really a surprise to me but an absolute reflection of the hard work from our team, I am so humbled to get to work with them.
I was really excited when Fixer to Fabulous came out to film a modern take on their beloved grandmother’s recipe. Jenny and David Marrs were so kind and fun to work with. I hope they come back!
The CARE organization does such amazing work. Historically I have focused a lot of effort on raising money and awareness for hunger issues in Arkansas/U.S. but hunger is certainly not exclusive to our borders and we as chefs should lead efforts on a global level to help end poverty.
The future looks great in 2022! We have partnered with Ozark Beer Company on our second collaborative beer to be released April 30th. We are planning to host a No Kid Hungry dinner featuring guest chefs and raising money fight childhood hunger in America. This fall we are planning to host a cook book dinner for our friend Chef Vishwesh Bhatt from Snack Bar restaurant in Oxford, MS. It is a big year!
It has to be so exciting to look forward after the last two years. What have you taken away from operating a restaurant during a global pandemic that will stay with you as the world begins to move forward?
It feels unbelievably good to be looking forward! There are definitely some positive takeaways from working in this pandemic:
Take nothing for granted.
Make time for yourself and your family.
Don’t forget to tell those around you how much you appreciate them.
What are your go-to ingredients? Something that’s always stocked in your pantry or fridge.
Cured pork parts. From smoked jowls to cured hams. I also love cooking beans. You will always fine dried/frozen/fresh beans in my pantry.
I actually cook a lot. I am the morning guy and cook all breakfast for me and the kids. I also spend a good part of my weekend cooking large batches of food for leftovers for the week so that my wife can quickly heat up dinner. It’s a busy life!
What’s a week night go-to for you and your family?
Usually every week we roast a chicken. These days in a cast iron pot with a lid. I season the bird 24 hours in advance, place garlic slivers, fresh thyme and rosemary under the skin. I put celery, carrots and onions, garlic and potatoes in the bottom of the pot and let it slowly cook. It’s the classic one pot meal.