Chefs on StarChefs
210 W Rittenhouse Sq
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 546-9000

Biography »

Pamela Lewy:Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Matt Ridgway: : I grew up in a house with 4 acres of land and my parents had (and still have) a huge garden where we planted different vegetables and herbs. They actually grow over 57 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. I was always surrounded by fresh food and produce. My mom was a good cook and she always cooked dinner for the family. I started cooking at my cousin’s bakery when I was only 12 years old. I always loved to cook and its always been my passion but I never saw it as a career until my dad suggested I go to culinary school. I did and I loved it.

PL: What drew you to French food?

MR: I like the discipline, refinement and technique of French cooking. Technique is paramount.

PL: You received culinary degree from Johnson & Wales as well as a degree from Widener University in hospitality, business and management. What prompted you to go back for your second degree?

MR: I wanted a business degree because I had heard horror stories about people in this industry burning out and I didn’t want that to happen to me. Culinary school is great for cooking but it tends to focus less on academics. I wanted a more well rounded education.

PL: How has your business degree helped you in your career?

MR: It helped me as far as business is concerned. I didn’t think I’d some of these skills, but they’ve given me greater perspective of the industry.

PL: Who are your mentors?

MR: Jean Marie Lacroix and Martin Hamman. I worked with Jean-Marie for years. He’s a great organizer. Martin Hamman taught me about refinement and looking at everything as the best product possible.

PL: What chef/s do you most admire? Why?

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Lacroix at the Rittenhouse | Philadelphia, PA

Ever since working at his cousin’s bakery as a kid, Ridgway knew he was destined to spend his career in the kitchen. With culinary school and a west coast externship behind him, Ridgway made his way back to Pennsylvania and eventually hooked up with Executive Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix and Chef Martin Hamman at The Fountain Room in Philly’s Four Seasons Hotel. Ridgway immediately took to the artistry and discipline of French cuisine, and when Lacroix opened his namesake restaurant, Lacroix at The Rittenhouse, Ridgway was offered the position of chef de cuisine. The menu at Lacroix varies weekly, but Ridgway’s passion, perfection, and creativity are constants in every dish.

Lobster Aspic and Cauliflower Chaud Froid with Savory Mornay
Chef Matt Ridgway of Lacroix at the Rittenhouse – Philadelphia, PA
Adapted by StarChefs

Yield: 4 Servings


    Lobster Aspic:
  • 1 cup soy oil
  • 5 pounds lobster bodies, broken down
  • 5 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cut and drained
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bouquet garni (black peppercorn, basil, bay leaf, parsley stem)
  • 1 teaspoon ground annatto seed
  • 1 cup cognac
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 quarts reserved cooking liquid from a lobster court bouillon
  • 1 ½ sheets bloomed gelatin
    Lobster Mornay:
  • 1 cup reduced lobster stock
  • ½ cup cream
  • 2 ounces lobster coral or tomalle, uncooked
  • ¼ cup smoked hard cow’s milk cheese, such as Idiazabal, finely grated
    Cauliflower chaud froid:
  • 1 head of cauliflower, stems trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 sheets gelatin, bloomed in cool water
  • 1 cup heavy cream whipped to soft peaks
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • Baby red chard


For lobster aspic:
Heat soy oil in a rondeau or flat sauté pan until smoking. Add lobster bodies and sauté until red and slightly caramelized. Add shallots and garlic. Stir over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomato product, tomato paste, bouquet garni and annatto seed, and cook until all the liquid is evaporated and ingredients begin to caramelize on the bottom. Deglaze pan with cognac and white wine and reduce. Add the reserved cooking liquid from a lobster court bouillon and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain through a chinois. Divide stock in half. Reduce one half until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Take half of remaining stock ( ¼ of original amount) and add bloomed gelatin. Pour lobster stock with gelatin onto a half sheet tray. Let cool.

For lobster mornay:
Heat reduced lobster stock and add the cream. Whisk in two ounces of coral, careful not to bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in finely grated Idiazabal until smooth. Chill and reserve.

For cauliflower chaud froid:
Place cauliflower in a steamer and cook until tender and almost over-cooked. Place cauliflower in cheese cloth to squeeze out any excess water. While still hot, puree cauliflower in blender with butter and heavy cream until smooth. Place hot cauliflower puree in a non-reactive metal bowl over an ice bath. Gradually add gelatin and whipped cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour mixture onto plastic sheet tray and spread evenly. Allow to cool.

To serve:
Cut lobster aspic into four ½-inch squares. Cut cauliflower chaud froid
into four ½-inch squares. Carefully remove the squares from sheet trays, keeping them intact. Layer squares in an alternating pattern, beginning with the cauliflower. Repeat the steps until there are eight layers. Plate and drizzle with the lobster Mornay and garnish with baby red chard.

Interview Cont'd

MR: Jean-Louis Palladin. He helped create the French/American food movement in the United States. Freddie Girardet cooks simple food but its so exact and precise… he’s definitely one of the masters. I admire Thomas Keller because he started with nothing and built his own empire. Charles Saunders, who I feel lucky to have mentored with is a great inspiration. All these chefs are ahead of their time. I also look up to David Myers and his wife from Sona in Los Angeles. I admire their talents and they’re doing great things.

PL: You’ve traveled across America tasting different cuisines. What cities do you like most for culinary travel?

MR: New York and San Francisco. New York is refined technically and San Francisco has some of the best products in the country. San Francisco also has great markets and everything is impeccably fresh. Both cities have a great food culture and great appreciation of food.

PL: What are your favorite food haunts in Philly?
Vietnam, Pif, and Morimoto.

PL: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?

MR: I can’t live without my French omelette pan. If you can’t make a good omlelette, then you can’t cook food like foie gras or beef. The first thing a chef should learn is how to make a proper omelette.

PL: What are your favorite spices? Why?

MR: Juniper berries are very versatile. I like to use them for fish, not just game, They also go well with shallots and you can combine them with many other spices and ingredients. I also like star anise because they have a strong flavor but not the same as licorice and fennel.

PL: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created or use in an unusual way?

MR: I poach meats in different mediums such as milk to give it more flavor and to keep the meat moist. I also sometimes poach eggs in salmis, a French game sauce.

PL: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?

MR: I like to let them do most of the talking. I usually let them trail at first and let my cooks feel them out. After that I work with them on a second stage to get a better read on them and see how they work. I like to hear that they are well rounded and that they read other books than just culinary, like James Joyce or Tolstoy.

PL: What advice/tip do you have for culinary students just getting started?

MR: Marty Hamman once said this to me: “this business is eating a lot of crow,” meaning you have to discipline yourself and truly want it. Always keep an open mind. I’d rather have them start at the bottom of great restaurant than start at the top in a mediocre place.

PL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?

MR: Good question. Eventually I’d like to own my restaurant. But right now I like doing what I’m doing. I love being close to the food.


 Published: May 2004