FT33 is Chef Matt McCallister’s first solo venture, opened on October 13, 2012 in Dallas and serving “season-inspired modern cuisine.” He showcases the highest-quality products, treats them with respect, and strives for innovation. “I don’t print my menu until I know which ingredients are best that day,” he explains. “That should be the natural progression, rather than do the reverse, creating a dish and forcing whatever ingredients are available into it.” McCallister also has a penchant for creating unorthodox pairings of ingredients. “I always prepare a few dishes that are risky, which challenge both me and my customers in the best way possible,” he says.
Before becoming a thoughtfully progressive culinarian in the Dallas dining scene, McCallister was torn between the visual and culinary arts. He ultimately chose cooking as a career, even after attending the Metropolitan Arts Institute in Phoenix for fine arts in 2000. “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, McCallister applied for a job at Stephan Pyles Restaurant in Dallas. With no formal training the aspiring chef began working the garde manger station at the renowned temple of fine Southwestern cuisine. He rapidly ascended the kitchen hierarchy, becoming sous chef in just over a year and executive chef within three years. Pyles, who was thoroughly impressed with McCallister’s “raw and natural ability,” exposed his protégé to a wide variety of cuisines beyond Southwestern, and McCallister had the opportunity to work in revered kitchens across the country as a result: José André’s minibar in Washington, D.C.; Mark Vetri’s eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia; Sean Brock’s McCrady’s in Charleston, SC; Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago; and Daniel Boulud’s Daniel in New York. Upon returning to Dallas in 2011, McCallister worked with two design friends to open a restaurant for which he consulted on the menu of rustically elegant nose-to-tail cuisine and inspired housemade salumi and charcuterie.
Extending the reach of his food philosophy, the chef and his wife founded Chefs for Farmers, a grassroots organization supporting local farmers by introducing their products to chefs, and vice versa. He is also a member of Foodways Texas and Southern Foodways Alliance, and he actively participates in raising funds for Meals on Wheels. McCallister earned a Mastering Wine Certificate from the Culinary Institute of America in 2011.
When he’s not in the kitchen, the 31-year-old chef/restaurateur spends most of his time with wife, Iris, and their young daughter, Ella, who is his constant companion at the farmers’ market. He can also occasionally be found foraging for various wild herbs and vegetables in and around Dallas.