In cooking, as in business, success is all about matching the right ingredients to achieve a perfect fusion.
He has built rich and flavoursome food ecosystems in places well off the beaten track and, in one case, he even went beyond the Black Stump!
He brings together communities just as he brings together the finest local ingredients.
And the outcomes? Well, it almost goes without saying that they’re wonderful! Nourishing, bold where necessary, and they pay due homage to the perfectly balanced convergence of localised flavours and bigger-picture vision.
He reckons a lot of it is all about instinct; and knowing your limits.
And backing yourself to be able to make it happen.
“You have to picture yourself doing it,” Matt says.
“And if you can’t … you have to go back to the drawing board.
“Then, there is often a matter of just staying calm and keeping cool … and a lot of the time just making sure I don’t lose my shit.”
Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it.
Matt grew up around produce and farming, and he knew he wanted to be a chef by the age of about 12.
He still hasn’t finished the set sewing task of making a pair of shorts, but the cooking component of Home Economics was his thing.
“I loved making things like the apple crumble (which co-host Tara Jacobsen-Neven even remembers tasting having gone to school with Matt at Nambour High!) and I remember making a pecan torte for German class,” Matt remembers.
“Everything I studied at high school, from art to language and everything I could, was all about learning more about food and culture and the origins.
“I read and read and read. Every cookbook I could get my hands on. It was all about instilling an understanding the philosophy of food and gaining a respect of it.”
Matt has done his time in the cities. He’s been on TV shows, has worked through some really tough times personally, and having travelled the world, he knows regions are where he wants to be.
“If I was in a big city I wouldn’t have as close a relationship to the food and the people who grow it and produce it,” he says.
“It’s those relationships you build and the quality of the food you can source locally that makes your food so much better.
“I’ve done my time in the cities and I have done plenty of travelling but I have always been brought back to (regions) because I love it.
“We have access to a huge diversity of ingredients and a direct connection to it.
“It’s about having a lifestyle as well.
Home now, is on the Sunshine Coast.
It’s all about lifestyle and family – and not taking anything for granted.
Downtime and self care is a priority: running, climbing mountains, eating well and music are all keys to staying in peak form professionally.
That said, there’s no doubt he is busy.
“I’m like a resident of so many little country towns now!”
Goondiwindi, Blackall, Biloela, Mackay, The Sunshine Coast, Roma … you name it! Matt has been there, worked with local producers and cooked.
He is the Gympie Food Ambassador and has a standing invitation to headline major food events throughout the country.
“I have been doing that for about the past three years now and I get to go to farms, get to know the people and see how they do things.
“Over that time I have seen how they’ve grown.
“There is a collective consciousness of a region that sees everyone sharing ideas.”
It’s not all rosy though – as anyone in the thick of regional, rural or remote primary industry would be quick to attest.
“Even with the diversity, and the good business models, it is still a tough business to be in.
“It can be really really tough. It’s not there yet that young peple are embracing farming but I’m seeing it more and more.
“One person I know is a man who is making this incredible black garlic and he still needs to have to go out and work and the mines to remain sustainable.”
While there is much malais around the lack of support – and how more can always be done – Matt maintains that where there is innovation and the courage to create another industry and another pillar in the economy, there is plenty going on.
“I reckon it’s getting there, being given this role as the Gympie Food Ambassador is all around the economic development of the council and it’s about growing the industry and strengthening diversity.”
“Food tourism is massive now and it has been great to see this grow and grow.”
But regions – and the businesses therein – need to help themselves as well.
Matt says a lack of knowledge about what’s in their own region and even good old egos and clashing personalities are still barriers.
“Often I will go to these regions and I’ll be teaching them what they are growing in their region because they are not aware of what’s in their own backyard,” he says.
“It’s not hard – you google it. It is down to restaurants taking ownership of what’s there and have the pubs and clubs and restaurants and cafes to buy local and direct from the producers and give people the opportunity to walk into any restaurant or cafe and taste the local food.
“You go to regional areas and you’re still flat out getting local produce on a menu – but it’s getting there.”
As with anything, it comes backs to the basics.
“It’s about communication both ways and a bit of respect to make it work.
“It is all about matching the right people up.
“Collaboration is all about the information that gets shared, especially when people have success with different things.
“There’s always the personalities and egos to deal with and it’s not always going to work, especially in regional areas,.
“And yes, there are people who will collaborate and help each other.
“But then there are those who are defensive and instead of thinking that the more the merrier, then it’s better for everyone, they will see the negative – some will get it and some won’t.”
The simple truth, though, is to succeed, you really do need to “get it” as Matt says.
He did. He’s teaching others now. And just look at the results.