Matt Lewis can take credit for helping Seattleites fall in love with New Orleans cuisine — the chef and owner of the food truck Where Ya At Matt has won over the northwestern city, one po’ boy sandwich at a time. Lewis recently landed at No. 9 on The Daily Meal’s list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America for 2013, and that success has propelled the New Orleans native to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. It’s called Roux, a nod to the flour-and-fat base common in French and Creole cooking, and after months of anticipation, it’s about to open its doors this month. Lewis is financing his restaurant in part through what he’s dubbed “The Louisiana Purchase,” whereby supporters can make a donation and, in return, receive a Roux gift card for 125 percent of the value of that contribution. We chatted with Lewis for the latest on this long-awaited opening.
I would imagine that having a popular food truck first helped get your name out there and draw support.
Absolutely. That kind of gives you the support to take that next step to build a brick-and-mortar [restaurant], to see I already have a community that loves the food, loves what we provide. In talking to other Seattle trucks that have gone that route, they’re like, “Man, a restaurant is so much easier.” So I was totally down for giving it a go.
For lunch, they can expect the same things they’ll get from the truck. For dinner, it’s going to be totally Southern-inspired, totally different from what you’re going to get on the truck. [There will be] a lot of Northwest ingredients — whatever’s fresh. You’ll see a lot of rotation in the menu; nothing will really be stagnant. We’ll have our main dishes that you’ll be able to come and get every day, but we’ll also have some amazing specials and different entrées that we’ll provide as well. We’re going to do small plates and entrées. So no matter what your appetite is you’ll always be able to find something at the restaurant. I think the No. 1 draw is going to be beignets and coffee all day long. We’ll be open from about 8 a.m., and depending on the day we’ll be closing at midnight or 2 a.m. — so bring your appetite.
The food you serve is so unique for this area. You’ve got New Orleans specialties such as gumbo, muffalettas and jambalaya. Do Seattleites know what they’re ordering?
It depends. The majority of people know, and I think we’ve done a good job of educating. But we explain a lot of the food, too. A lot of people will come knowing about a certain percentage of the items, but we have no problem explaining it, and a lot of times we’ll let them sample it. We’re very proud of what we do, and the more people we can let taste our food, the better. But we definitely have a very educated population — and luckily, they love good food.
You’re from New Orleans originally. What brought you up to Seattle?
You know, I had never been to the West Coast. I was in New York at the time and threw a dart at a map and it was either San Francisco or Seattle. For some reason I chose Seattle, and I’ve been here for 12 years now. I like it a lot and I don’t plan on going anywhere in the very near future. I’ve been in the business for about 14 years now. I went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park [New York]. I’ve worked in a lot of different places, mostly fine dining, but I went to where my roots are, which is good comfort food, soul food — the things you would eat if you came to my house is the way I like to look at it. And the rest is history.
Photos Courtesy of Matt Lewis