EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: MATT SMITH
Hailing from Fort Wayne, Ind., Matt Smith has been in Nashville for 22 years, and brings 20 years of experience to his role as Executive Chef of Bria Bistro.
Located in west Nashville, Bria Bistro is an upscale Italian restaurant with a neighborhood feel. The menu includes Italian favorites along with many custom creations. Not to mention an awesome happy hour with half-priced bottles of wine every Wednesday and Sunday.
Read more for the inside scoop on all things Bria.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I started working in foodservice when I was 15. I've been obsessed with food and chefs since I was a little kid.
Was that always your goal?
It was and wasn't. I always talked about being a chef when I was a kid, and have been cooking since I was allowed to use the stove, but I started out just being a teen looking for a job. I found working with food incredibly interesting, but when it was time for college, I chose information technology. I realized very quickly that, as much as I like computers, it was not an industry I would be happy in. So I went to culinary school and have not regretted it.
What is your favorite Bria menu item and why?
This is a tough question. Im proud of the entire menu, and I love how varied it is. If I had to choose one dish on the menu, I would say the Pappardelle pasta. It's a very simple dish, with only a few ingredients, but they combine to make something really unique.
What are your top recommendations for food & wine pairings at Bria?
I'm a big believer in eating what you like with drinks that you like. Bria has an excellent wine menu, and I think anyone can find a wine they would enjoy with any dish.
What’s your process when it comes to Weekend Specials?
Specials are usually a team effort. I allow everyone to be a part of creating what you see each weekend at Bria. Even before I was here, Bria had a very unique approach to specials. They were never distinctly Italian, and it has become part of the draw for our guests. Sometimes I'm creating them, sometimes its the sous chef and cooks are creating them. There is a lot of conversation throughout each day here about food in general, and I think everybody feeds off that.
What influences the dishes you choose?
When Im coming up with dishes I'm inspired by everything around me food related. I may eat something I liked and use that as a base for something else, or I might be at the grocery store and see something that makes an idea pop in my head. Food is influenced by every aspect of our lives, you just have to pay attention to what's going on around you.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I am very family oriented and give most of my free time to my fiance and 2 kids. My hobbies are collecting records, gardening, guitar, and working on cars. I like working with my hands and crafting things too. I'm currently building an entertainment center from random pieces of wood I've accumulated over the years. My next project is going to be building a couch out of random things, if I ever get the time.
Nashville is Music City. What kind of music do you listen to in the kitchen?
Music in this kitchen is so varied that it comes down to who plugs into the stereo first. We argue about music pretty much all day, but I love music so I get introduced to a lot of different music almost daily. I personally choose heavier music, metal, punk, garage and psychedelic rock. Today I think is going to be some Iggy Pop and Mastodon.