q & a with chef matt (chatty) harlan

If you’ve been to Lolita lately, you have this man to thank for your great meal. He’s one of Michael Symon’s most trusted chefs (even helped him on his first Iron Chef battle). At work, he’s known for much more than great cooking abilities – he’s apparently quite the chatter box, hence the nickname chatty. Maybe that’s because he is one of 11 kids (he and his wife are expecting their first in December).

1. The top 5 spices that are a must in every kitchen? Kosher salt, peppercorns, coriander, chili flakes and chef 2 chef steak seasoning.

2. What is your favorite and least favorite thing to make? I’m really enjoying making the pizzas. I also enjoy pig roasts and clambakes. Desserts have been my least favorite.

3. If you could cook for one person, real or dead, who would it be? It would be a table of Michael Symon, Frank Rogers and Thomas Keller. They have meant the most to me during my cooking career and it would be fun to show them how far I have come.

4. You’re having a dinner party, what are the top 5 songs on your play list? This is a funny question. It would probably be quiet since nobody would want to listen to Garth Brooks while they’re eating!

5. Favorite restaurant in Cleveland? I have a bunch but Flying Fig and Momocho stick out the most.

6. What restaurant do you miss? Theory

7. What is your favorite thing on the new menu? The pizzas. They’re easy to make and are very good. I’m currently going to school to be certified on making them.

8. Where does your passion for food come from? Seeing people happy. I take it pretty hard when people experience a bad meal that our kitchen put out.

9. Most unusual food you have ever tried? Confit of lamb heart salad.

10. If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing? I wouldn’t be a math teacher!

11. What was your time like on Iron Chef? What a time that was – pretty nerve racking and exciting at the same time. We went in with a game plan and had to tweak it a bit when we found out it was asparagus. We felt that we cooked great and there wasn’t a whole lot more we could do at that point. I would love a rematch.

12. What foodie mags/shows do you watch? Next Iron Chef, I enjoy reading your blog, Ruhlmans, Bruni, clev food/wine and I just found a new one that is funny – raging server.

13. Any plans to open your own restaurant? Not for at least six more years! The day will come when I have to do something, just not sure yet. This month I celebrate10 years working at the restaurant and am happy to have the opportunity to work for the best chef in the city (in my opinion).


  1. holly_44109
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got reservations at Lolita next Sunday – looking forward to trying the pizzas and watching The Next Iron Chef!

  2. hot coffee girl
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I have to catch up on my blog reading…I am really behind to have missed this Q&A with my favorite chef in Cleveland. (And I JUST got home from Lolita’s, too! Weird.)

    Matt is such a great chef. And his wife is one of the coolest chicks I know. Plus, their dog Bubba? Wicked awesome.

    (Although he’s no Stella.)

    I’m rambling, but good food will tend to have that effect on me! Yay Matt!

  3. Skeezix
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Well, then I must thank Matt for the most delicious meal I’ve had a very long time. I was there this weekend and had an amazing meal.

    I want to marry their roasted chicken, it was divine. And the chicken livers were simply pure velvet deliciousness.

  4. michelle v
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad you had a good meal there! I love the new menu. I sent my parents there on Sunday with their friends after a play – they loved it! It’s rare for them to go to Tremont and leave the burbs so I’m even happier they had such a good time. My mom even went up to introduce herself to Michael and Matt and now thinks it’s the coolest place ever. I’m in NYC and she has called several times to tell me the story again or when she remembers something new. She keeps saying – that Michael, what a nice guy, we’re best buddies now. And apparently it was his grandpa’s b-day and his whole family was in, which made her think he’s that much nicer. She got such a kick from meeting the chefs! And she doesn’t really get the whole blog thing (she avoids computers at all costs), but kept saying – my daughter is the one who blogs for food on the internet.