The Wild Card
“I just don’t want to do what anyone else is doing, you know?” Matt Gaudet says as he makes ravioli in the boxy kitchen of Kendall Square’s West Bridge. A prep cook looks on, admiring his technique: the gentle way he’s pulling dough through the machine, carefully placing dollops of filling all in a line, cupping the sections with his hands. His voice, however, is all unrestrained excitement. Every time he runs back to the prep kitchen, I have to take the stairs two at a time to keep up.
Gaudet, who studied economics in college, didn’t enroll in culinary school until he was 27. Before that, he says, he had lived in a van in Colorado. Back then, he had dreadlocks down his back, and he “smoked pot, drank beers every day, and rode the mountain all the time.”
Now, at 41, Gaudet has already cut his teeth in some of New York’s top restaurants. After training at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (“Masshole, born and raised”), he landed gigs at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, Jean Georges, and Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit. Though he did a stint at Boston’s Aquitaine, where he met West Bridge co-owner Alexis Gelburd-Kimler, his current gig feels like the first time his personality has been allowed to run rampant over an entire menu. And his contributions are helping put Boston on the map.
“I find that Boston is evolving slightly behind the curve, in its own way, but I think one of my hopes and dreams is to put us on the same level as somewhere like Portland, Oregon,” he says. “That scene over there is very independent, very free-thinking. Very cool food coming out of that city.”
The beet salad currently on the menu is topped with translucent shards of edible glass — or so it would seem. It turns out to be the skin of the oranges in the dish, blanched three times, candied in their own juice, dehydrated, and ground down. The juice is then caramelized, and the dry bits are added back in.
“I don’t want people to know everything when they look at the plate. I want them to eat and not be able to figure out what makes it have the taste or texture it does,” he says. “At the same time, I want to make food that I want to eat, but that wouldn’t scare away my grandmother.”
It’s part of his philosophy to create carefully thought-out dishes — “serious fucking food,” by his count — without taking himself too seriously. “We’re definitely trying to build something here that isn’t as confined or ordinary as what’s been here before. I think we leave a lot up to chance, too,” he adds, and a few cooks bark out laughs, nodding. “We throw a lot of things at the wall here. We’re willing to do that because we don’t want to rest on our laurels.”
West Bridge » 1 Kendall Sq, Cambridge :: 617.945.0221 or westbridgerestaurant.com