At just 31 years old, Matt Boyle is one of the longest-serving team members here at Attica. After first joining us as a baby-faced 19-year-old – now, 12 years later, he keeps our kitchen in order as head chef.
Over the years, Matt made his way through every station in the Attica kitchen with the kind of discipline you’d expect from a professional athlete. It’s no wonder, then, that he grew up surrounded by football, with a promising junior career himself.
Below, Matt takes us back to the beginning – sharing the story of how he swapped footy boots for chef’s clogs.
The rumour going around is that you first started at Attica as a dishy – is that true?
It’s sort of true. When I was 19, I was washing dishes at a café on Chapel Street. I became friendly with the chef who ran the restaurant across the street, and he told me that if I was serious about food, I should go straight to a top restaurant.
I’d recently given up football after playing it for my entire life and decided he was right. If this was the industry that I was going to go into, then why not go to one of the best restaurants and give it a crack? I started work experience at Attica shortly after and then became a kitchen hand. And yeah, it involved washing dishes [laughs].
Do you remember your first shift?
I remember my first day very clearly. I've never been so nervous in my life – I got there super early. I went through the front door and Ben was standing at the pass. He was looking at the mail because it was the start of the week. He greeted me with a nice handshake and smile, before introducing me to everyone and handing me over to James, the sous chef at the time. I was a 19-year-old baby – I knew absolutely nothing and suddenly I was surrounded by these amazing chefs with incredible organisation and communication.
It was a Tuesday, so it was Chef’s Table night. There was this big tub of mandarins and James asked me to peel them. At first, I was relieved because I didn’t know much but I knew how to peel a mandarin. I was peeling away, feeling good about myself and was done after 15 minutes. Then James came over and said, “Okay great, now grab a sharp knife and we're going to take the pip off each segment.” And that literally took me all day – all day and into service. I still remember the team setting up a board out the back, so I wasn’t in the way for service [laughs].
What did those days as a kitchen hand teach you?
That it's vital – easily one of the most important roles in the restaurant. If you don't have a kitchen hand, your kitchen will not operate properly for service. That’s 100 per cent true.
As for the mandarins, these days, we do things a bit differently. It’s more of a group effort and the tasks aren’t as strenuous as they were back in the day.
Football was a big part of your life growing up, were your family and friends surprised when you went into cooking?
I played football from the age of six or seven. I grew up at football clubs. My dad used to coach, so even as a baby I’d be around club rooms and dressing rooms. Weekends were all about football – watching football, going to games, and then playing myself.
It was a big shock to everyone – and me as well. I still remember the first few Saturdays going into Attica and instead of putting on football boots, I was putting on Birkenstocks. It was a surprise for sure, but mum, dad and everyone else was super supportive.
Does your sporting background affect the way you approach cooking?
I think football, and the tools I learned from it, played a big part in how I progressed through Attica. With football, if you didn't go to training or didn't perform well, then you wouldn't get selected. I used that mentality at Attica – if you don't do this quick enough, or if you don't apply yourself in this way, well then, it might not be good enough. But bigger than that is the idea of working together with a team to achieve something great.
If you could talk to your 19-year-old self, what advice would you give young Matt?
Keep going. You just got to keep going no matter what. People out there might sometimes criticise you or not like your food – accept it, see if you can fix it and keep going. There are going to be setbacks. Things aren't going to be easy. Surround yourself with really good people and keep going.
Get a taste of Matt’s skills in action by visiting us.