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Local chef to be featured at legendary James Beard House

  • Written by Deborah Stone
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Matt Kelley is pastry chef at The Barking Frog at Willows Lodge. Courtesy photo.
For the seventh consecutive year, chefs from Benchmark Hospitality International have been invited to cook at the famed James Beard House in New York City.

Those selected include Renato de Pirro, executive chef of Ristorante Cavour at Hotel Granduca in Houston; Alan Gould, executive chef of Nine 18 from the Villas at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando; Michael Jackson, executive chef for Deloitte University in Dallas, Francisco (Paco) Aceves, executive chef of Stonewall Resort and Stillwaters Restaurant in Weston, West Virginia; and Woodinville’s own Matt Kelley, pastry chef for The Barking Frog at Willows Lodge.

“It’s great to be asked to do this,” says Kelley. “The Beard House is famous and it’ll be fun to go to New York City and be a part of it all.”

The team of chefs will prepare a seven-course dinner entitled, “A Tour of Italy with Fork, Knife and Glass” on Thursday, December 15th. On the menu will be such specialties as Foie Gras, Sautéed Snails with Saffron sauce, Crudo of Scallops, Adriatic Tuna and Mediterranean Sea Bass, Venetian Risotto in Squid ink, lobster and pomodoro Sorbetto, Piedmont Beef, Roasted Veal and Braised Pork Belly and a hand cured trio of Artisanal cheeses. Dessert is Kelly’s responsibility. He will be preparing something hot, Chocolate Rosemary Bombolino, and something cold, Sgroppino Egg, as well as a Mascarpone Panna Cotta with pistachios and preserved figs.

The local man, who has been at The Barking Frog for the past year and a half, served as pastry chef at Café Juanita in Kirkland, as well as at Rover’s in Seattle, where he earned the Star Chef’s Rising Star Award for 2009. His experience also includes positions as pastry chef at Bin 36 in Chicago, head of the pastry department at A Mano in Chicago and pastry cook at Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie.

A Seattle native, Kelley attended the Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central Community College.

“I really like being a pastry chef,” comments Kelley. “Desserts are my thing. I like the artistry and the attention to detail involved in creating them.”

He adds, “I like the fact that the plate is your palette and you can create your own painting with each plate.”

As for his favorite sweet to make, Kelley responds, “Anything with chocolate because it’s fun and versatile to work with, and it has lots of texture compared to other things.”

This will be the local chef’s first trip to the storied James Beard House. Once the home of legendary James Beard, America’s first celebrity chef who is revered today as the dean of American Cookery, the residence now houses the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization that celebrates, nurtures and preserves America’s diverse culinary heritage and future.

The organization offers numerous classes, workshops, conferences and dinners, where members can experience the country’s dynamic cuisine prepared by noted chefs.

“We are very proud of Matt and extremely excited having him represent the Willows Lodge and Barking Frog at the Beard House,” comments Shaun Tucker, general manager of Willows Lodge. “His talents as a chef and a person will shine bright.”

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