Chef Spotlight: Shawn Matijevich, 411 York
Chef Shawn Matijevich started cooking as a teen and continued on into The Navy. After working under acclaimed chefs like David Burke and Bryan Voltaggio, Matijevich took the helm at Four Eleven York in Norfolk. Here, Shawn shares his journey and culinary philosophy.
1. Tell me about your background. I noticed you have culinary experience from your time in the Navy. How did that experience inform the kind of chef you are today?
- I started working in the kitchen at my mom’s suggestion when I was a young teenager. I was planning on getting into technology and taking classes at the community college for computer science while I was in high school. I was working at the Smithfield Inn at the time and the chef pulled me aside and said “I know you’re into computers, but maybe you should think about being a chef. You have some talent.” Six months later I dropped out of high school and got a second job in the kitchen and never looked back. I’ve been all over the country and the world. I wouldn’t suggest it to everyone, but listening to my gut really worked out well for me.The Navy taught me just about everything I know about leadership. I got to see first hand what the power of food can do for people’s morale and that really changed the way I viewed the importance of the work that I do. The guests that I cook for deserve my best every time and that was no more apparent than when I was cooking for men and women who were putting their lives on the line everyday.
2. What was the experience like working with chefs like David Burke and Bryan Voltaggio? What lessons did you learn from them?
- The standards that both of those chefs had were the highest I have ever seen. I think a lot people see their celebrity and assume that the life is glamorous, but both of them work harder than anyone. They are up early in the morning and work late into the night. They both had really different styles, but they taught me how to turn creativity into a product that the customers will appreciate and not just something that I want to make. They both knew their customer very well and were able to develop products and menus that got people so excited. They were also very generous with their knowledge and they mentored me in various aspects of cooking and business that I couldn’t have got from a traditional education.
3. What is your approach to developing the menu at Four Eleven York?
- Four Eleven is a very unique concept because of the Bed and Breakfast. I wanted people who came from out of town to be able to experience the best of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up working in restaurants here like the Smithfield Inn, 99 Main, and the Freemason Inn and eating really great cooking inspired by the heritage and culture here. I try to source the best of the Virginia, Mid-Atlantic, and Chesapeake seafood, produce, and meat. Then we wanted to let it shine by applying progressive cooking technique and presentation. It’s not just for people from out of town though. We definitely had the folks who live and work here everyday in mind when putting things together. One writer said that I arrive at comfort from funny directions. I like that description because the flavors and profiles will certainly be familiar and authentic…with some surprises mixed in :).
4. What does a typical day look like for you at Four Eleven York?
- I am up very early. I like to spend my mornings developing menus and recipes because nobody else is awake and I can focus on creativity. Mid morning to early afternoon is preparation for dinner service. Checking on products being delivered and preparing them fresh every day. I bounce around in the kitchen during dinner service. We have two separate kitchens so I am running back and forth. I like being involved in every aspect of the dinner service…plating, expediting, even cooking on the line and helping the dishwasher when things get really busy. Hopefully I get a little time to say hello and check in with the guests towards the end of service. Then we have family meal after service concludes. We don’t waste anything here and the cooks and I get involved to try to come up with a way to make a fabulous meal out of our by product and we all sit down and enjoy dinner together and unwind. We have a really close team here and having that time together I think really helps with that dynamic
5. How does Cavalier Produce help you achieve your goals?
- My goal is to source the best products that I can find and highlight local farms and producers. Before I had Cavalier, I was personally driving out to farms to make connections. That wasn’t sustainable on the level that I needed as the seasons were changing and Cavalier has and incredible team from my rep Josh Gregory to Amy the Cheese Monger. I tell them what I am looking for and they work hard to get me exactly what I ask for. That allows me to focus on creating the dishes and not logistics. The product is always top notch as well. I wouldn’t be able to do it without Cavalier.
Follow Shawn on Instagram: @shawn_cooks_sugar
Follow Four Eleven York on Instagram: @fourelevenyork