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Chef Matt Selby's 20 Pieces of Kitchen Wisdom

Matt Selby
Matt Selby
Photo: Sean Buchan

When chef Matt Selby joined Vesta Dipping Grill 15 years ago as sous chef, he was 22 years old, and admittedly, a little cocky. "I think anyone is a little but cocky at 22, but I was also very eager to learn," he says, "and I've always been driven for the right reasons — it's always been about the guest. Making guests happy is what really makes me tick." His enthusiasm for the guest experience has carried him through 20 years in the business, and as the years have gone by, Selby has indeed made a lot of guest happy by sharing the Vesta experience. He says that he's matured as a leader, and more importantly, a mentor.

As Vesta celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, Selby will also be celebrating a new chapter in his restaurant career with the opening of Ace. Selby, owner Josh Wolkon and chef Brandon Biederman will extend the Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben's community with a ping pong eatery that they've dedicated an immense amount of energy to create — a restaurant that Selby hopes will fuel Denver's thriving culinary scene. But with every opening, there comes a new set of lessons to learn. Luckily, he's already collected some important lessons in his 15 years with Vesta, and he was happy to share his wisdom with Eater.

1) Leave your ego at the door and listen to your guests. It’s not always about what you want to cook, but rather what your guests want you to cook.

2) There is great reward in helping a line cook become a chef, and eventually an executive chef. Being a teacher is part of being a successful chef.

3)Recognize that making Denver a great restaurant city is part of the mission. Quality competition makes everybody better.

4) Party like a hard, and work harder.

5) Always be an hour early or more to off-site never know what will happen, or what you may have forgotten.

6) Don’t get too caught up in the fad or trend of the moment. Trends come and go. Stay current and educated, but stay true to who you are and focus on it.

7) Always get guests' personal information, whether it's a complaint or praise. An empathetic or grateful phone call, followed by a handwritten letter goes a long way. When dealing with mistakes, always go above and beyond.

8) Recognize and reward your best staff on a regular basis. They are the foundation of your success.

9) Never forget why we do what we do — to bring smiles to our guests.

10) Always have a crash box, should your P.O.S system crash.

11) Sleep is overrated?you can sleep when you are dead.

12)Treat guests, staff, reps and purveyors like you would want to be treated. Treat them like family.

13) Maintain a balance between work, personal time and family time. Take two days off in a row, each week, whenever possible. Encourage this of all your employees.

14) Always give back to the community — its youth, its reputation, its facilities and its non-profit organizations. It is the Denver community that allows us to fuel our passions.

15) Keep smiling. Never let them see you sweat.

16) Respect your elders! Many chefs and restaurateurs have worked hard to pave the way for kids like me — Kevin Taylor, Mel Master, Blair Taylor, Noel Cunningham, Corky Douglas?just to name a few.

17)Treat everyday like it’s the first day of a new restaurant.

18)Never get content, or assume that the dining room will be full the next day. You always have to strive to improve.

19) Always season and taste your food before the guest does.

20) Above all else, just be cool...

· All Vesta Dipping Grill Coverage [EDen]
· All Steuben's Food Service Coverage [EDen]
· All Ace Coverage [EDen]


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501 E. 17th Ave., Denver, CO 80203 (303) 800-7705 Visit Website