Chef Matt McCallister thrives on the energy of the kitchen: an atmosphere that is at once chaotic and structured. After cooking in kitchens across the country, Matt found his home in Dallas at FT33, his first solo venture which he opened at the age of 31 in October 2012. He quickly guided the restaurant to local acclaim, including earning a glowing five-star review from Dallas Morning News Restaurant Critic Leslie Brenner, and recognition of Restaurant of the Year by D magazine in December 2013. Matt and FT33 have since made waves on the national scale, including a spot on the 2013 Top 50 New Restaurant lists from Bon Appétit, a 2014 Food & Wine Best New Chef nod, and James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist nods for Best Chef Southwest 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Matt built the success of FT33 on high-quality ingredients presented in inventive, artful dishes, offering diners an experience on par with world-class restaurants around the globe. As a chef, Matt enjoys playing around with new techniques and flavor combinations, always remembering to balance the familiar with the unexpected. FT33 offers a fun and casual environment in which to try something new, like fermented onion in a hanger tartare dish or caramelized whey served in a pork loin dish. “Diners are more receptive to different experiences now than when we first opened,” he explains. “They expect something at least a little bit surprising.”
Matt has always had an artistic side and a love of food. Growing up he enjoyed cooking at home and always tended to a large garden. When choosing his career path, he felt torn between the visual and culinary arts, and he attended the Metropolitan Arts Institute in Phoenix in 2000 before ultimately choosing cooking. “Art was a passion that always competed with food, but cooking gives me an opportunity to blend the two,” says the Scottsdale, AZ native, whose artistic sensibilities were influenced by his designer mother and scientific curiosity can be attributed to his research engineer father.
In 2006, Matt was looking for a fresh start in a new city, so he applied for a job at Stephan Pyles Restaurant in Dallas. With no formal training, the aspiring chef began working the garde manger station rapidly ascending the kitchen hierarchy to the sous chef role in just over a year, and executive chef within three years. With Pyles’ guidance fostering his “raw and natural ability,” Matt sought out opportunities to stage in revered kitchens across the county. Upon returning to Dallas in 2011, Matt worked with two design friends to open Campo Modern Country Bistro, for which he consulted on the menu of rustically elegant nose-to-tail cuisine and inspired housemade salumi and charcuterie. He then opened FT33.
As much as he makes his food all about the ingredients, Matt plays equal attention to the presentation. He credits Michelin-starred French Chef Michel Bras’ Essential Cuisine as playing a large part in forming his food philosophy. “He changed the way I approach and respect food. His dishes are clean, uncluttered, and beautifully presented. I’m constantly creating dishes with his cuisine in mind,” he says. Dallas locals and visitors alike have flocked to FT33 for the unparalleled cuisine and the unpretentious environment.
When not cooking at the restaurants, Matt can be found shopping at farmers’ markets, going on long runs, which he says is when most of his new menu ideas come to light, reading cookbooks, or catching a DnB show. His favorite time, though, is spent with his children, Ella and Robert.