Ever wonder what makes some of Little Rock’s food personalities tick? Our Food Insider series takes a look at individuals who are helping change the landscape of our city’s culinary scene. Whether they’re in the kitchen, managing a storefront, farming land or running a food truck … we’ll delve into both the professional and personal side of these dynamite people. This week, we actually head up to Bentonville and feature Matthew McClure, executive chef of The Hive.
Could you give the readers a brief recap of your culinary background?
Born and raised from Little Rock, attended the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont for culinary school and trained under several great chefs in Boston.
How long have you been at The Hive?
I joined the team about eight months before we opened and have been there now about 2 ½ years.
The Hive is located inside the 21c Hotel … what are some of the challenges this type of restaurant setting poses?
The uniqueness of a 21c property avoids typical “hotel restaurant” challenges. Every aspect of this property encourages out-of-the-box ideas. For me, it’s about cooking delicious food for a variety of guest needs, from simple sandwiches to tasting menus.
Could you describe The Hive’s kitchen to someone who has never seen it? What are some of its special features, and on a busy night, how many staff members are back there?
It is a modern kitchen. I have all of the tools that I need to execute a creative menu. All of our equipment is designed for producing hand-crafted food. We have a large smoker to make our bacon, meat grinder for our sausages and burgers, and a wood burning grill to cook over. We also have pasta rollers, an ice cream machine, a chocolate tempering machine, and a band saw … all of these are used to take fresh, raw ingredients and turn them into delicious dishes. If we have a banquet event and a full dining room, we will have 2-3 sous chefs, 4-6 cooks, and 3-4 stewards.
Do you have a signature dish at The Hive or maybe one you’d suggest to first-time diners?
Our Berkshire pork chop has been hugely popular since we opened, as well as the pimento cheese.
You can now add 2014 James Beard Award Semifinalist for “Best Chef: South” to your resume. That’s a big deal. How has your life changed since the honor?
I am from Arkansas, cooking in Arkansas and that kind of recognition has been incredible. I am very proud to be part of something positive for my home state.
You’re a Little Rock guy who is now firmly entrenched in Bentonville. Obviously, you still have chef friends from the “old days.” Can we expect any collaborative efforts in the near future with these Little Rock chef(s)?
I’m not just a Little Rock guy, I’m an Arkansas guy. There is definitely a bond that is built working with people in the kitchen; those people become your kin. I currently don’t have any plans booked but I do have some open invitations. I am sure that there will be some collaboration in the future. Stay tuned!
What are some upcoming food events taking place in 2015 at The Hive?
We will start our “Fork and Bottle” special dinners for 2015. This is a great opportunity to have a fun dinner paired some sort of beverage where I engage the diners. It’s intimate and the menu is only available for the event. I have some fun ideas for the ones next year.
What is your perfect Bentonville weekend? Where would you go and what do you eat?
We are fortunate to have plenty of outdoor activities in Bentonville. I would hit Pressroom for a cup of coffee before walking over to the farmers market on Saturday morning. After that, I would grab a crepe from Crepes Paulette, while my wife would grab some brisket tacos from Big Rub BBQ. I would then walk down to Crystal Bridges to enjoy the incredible art. I would grab an adult beverage at Tusk & Trotter before going home and cooking dinner with the food from the farmers market. On Sunday, I would head to The Hive for brunch and then hopefully pull out my bicycle to hit the many trails in and around Bentonville.
When you’re not in the kitchen, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I have many outdoor hobbies I enjoy … fishing, hunting, cycling, and canoeing. If my wife is off too, we may go canoeing or hiking. We enjoy the outdoors.
What is your favorite city as it pertains to food?
You’re not making me pick one are you? Boston, Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, Austin, New York City, and San Francisco. The food culture in this country is on fire! It has mainly been in big cities but now small towns like Bentonville are popping up too. It is a very exciting time to be cooking.
If you could have dinner with one celebrity, who would it be and where would you eat?
It would be Steve Jobs with dinner at NOMA in Copenhagen.
What one thing would surprise people to learn about you?
I married my high school sweetheart.