Arkansas born and bred culinary mastermind, Matt McClure, knows a thing or two about making a buzz. For years, he trained at the New England Culinary Institute and worked alongside top-notch chefs in the Boston area. After nearly eight years, he got back to his southern roots at the Capitol Hotel in Little Rock before landing in his current residence, Northwest Arkansas. Now he’s the executive chef of The Hive, a southern cuisine restaurant located in the 21c hotel in Bentonville. As an award-winning chef, he understands that commitment and nourishment are key ingredients in the THRIVE lifestyle, and this week he gave us some insight into how these factors affect his work in the kitchen.
Question No. 01: What is High South Cuisine?
A: High South embodies a group of local growers/producers that supply the community with food that has the uniqueness that this region provides. The soil the climate and the varieties of food grown here give it this specific personality. The chef’s role in this style adds another layer of dimension, by pulling inspiration from their experience as well as the more recent immigrants to the area we are able to evolve our style of cooking. Each chef has their own story to tell through the food but the foundation of that food is the ingredients and part of the story is our WHOLE community.
No. 02: How does your food fit within this new Culinary Technique?
I work directly with farmers to grow different vegetables or pig varieties to use. I have always been inspired by local immigrants from flavor combinations to cooking techniques. I want my menu to be a snapshot of food right now in the high south. Local, seasonal, creative, handled with finesse and care. I have a butcher plate to showcase the craft of charcuterie, with flavors inspire by our community. I am a huge fan of the vegetables that grow here and I celebrate them as well.
“We are surrounded by world-class businesses, museums and dining...trying to accompany that keeps us on our toes.”
No. 03: How is the Bentonville culinary scene going to be able to lead/participate in High South Cuisine?
We have talented chefs, a thriving farmers market and an incredibly supportive community. We are all working for a similar goal. I have never experienced this kind of positive energy and excitement for food and pride of place.
No. 04: Does the James Beard Foundation recognize this as a Culinary scene and are they a part of it?
I believe the James Beard Foundation has acknowledged that there is something very special happening in Bentonville. We have a great story to tell about American Cookery, geographically speaking, we ARE middle America. We are collectively pushing our philosophy on food in America from the inside out. The JBF has been very supportive of us as a community.
No. 05: One of the big themes of the THRIVE life is, “nourish.” Do you feel it’s important to keep that fresh, farm-to-table aspect when it comes to your cuisine?
Yes! I feel it is very important to develop and nourish relationships with growers and producers to get the food they have. In turn, I deliver a unique Arkansas culinary experience.
No. 06: And lastly, how do you THRIVE?
Cook, serve, listen, love and lead. Have passion in whatever you do, you will be happier and those around will be too!
Craving more Bentonville Interviews? Check out how Paula of Crepes Paulette thrives in downtown.