PORTSMOUTH – A local chef specializing in tapas-style dining with New England roots loves the challenge of surprising his customers with new flavors and dishes.
For the second year in row, Matt Louis, chef/owner of Moxy, was nominated by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the 10 up-and-coming chefs in New England and is in the running to be one of the top chefs in the in the nation who have run their own kitchens for five years or less.
Food & Wine released the list of the 100 nominations for the fourth year of the annual competition on March 24. As the sole chef from New Hampshire, Louis is competing against counterparts from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It is up to online voters to select their favorites from 10 regions across the country.
The dining public will determine The People’s Best New Chef winner via an online vote — www.foodandwine.com/the-peoples-bnc — which lasts until 5 p.m. Monday. The chef with the most votes will be named The People’s Best New Chef for 2014.
The list of finalists and regional winners will be released online Wednesday, and the winner will be featured in the July issue of Food & Wine, which also profiles best new chefs for the year.
Louis, who was born in Exeter and grew up in Raymond, attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York before working at Bouchon and the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., Per Se in New York City and Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great chefs and mentors,” Louis said, adding it’s entirely a different experience to run his own kitchen.
“It’s almost like starting over,” Louis said, adding he delved into a new world when he helped open Moxy, which is located at 106 Penthallow St., in May of 2012.
Louis said he feels he’s made his mark offering New England flavors — like pumpkin, puddings and fried dough — in tapas-style dishes. He added this is a new twist on the traditional Spanish style “is meant for sharing.”
He said this allows people to try several things at once and share a meal.
“There’s always something new and exciting on our menu,” Louis said, adding he must not only compete against other restaurants in Portsmouth, but also with those across a region which stretches across New England. Louis said he was “neck and neck” with the chef at Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine, in 2013 and must face that chef again this year.
As a result, Louis said he’s constantly reviewing and updating the menu, sometimes daily. Nonetheless, he added he retains many of the favorite dishes, especially those with “cultural importance to New England.”
For example, Louis said he offers whoopie pie sliders as a dessert, which is something he’s seen only in bakeries and general stores across the area.
“I’ve never seen them in a restaurant setting,” Louis said. Visit www.moxyrestaurant.com.