Simply put, there aren’t enough people in this town talking about Chef Matthew Dunn. And frankly, I’m as guilty as anyone else. Dunn came to Little Rock to serve as the pastry chef at The Capital Hotel, but until recently I wasn’t fully aware just how talented this man is.
About a month ago, the folks at Capital Bar & Grill issued me a challenge to eat a new pie everyday in the month of February in honor of National Pie Month. Of course, I accepted the challenge. Dunn was responsible for developing the recipes and producing these pies throughout the month. And I can tell you, it didn’t take me a full month to recognize that this was a seriously talented individual. Little Rock’s food scene contains very few formally trained pastry chefs…in fact, Dunn may be the only one in town. But sampling my way through his creations, it was clear that his training has not gone to waste.
Dunn was born and raised in Middlesbrough, England. It was here that he also received a degree in hospitality management and a diploma in patisserie. Dunn says he came to the Capital Hotel because “it’s one of very few places in Arkansas which still has a pastry department and makes everything from scratch,” and he continues, “It’s nice to have the chance to make everything from scratch, such as puff pastry and breads, as a lot of hotels buy in convenience products now.”
Dunn oversees the pastry department at the hotel, including all desserts of One Eleven, Capital Bar & Grill, and banquets. He also manages all overnight bakers, bread production, and breakfast pastries.
Dunn says, “The hardest thing about pastry is adjusting certain recipes depending upon the weather that day. Some recipes such as breads and doughs can change depending upon the humidity and temperature, so you’re always having to slightly adjust when needed. Pastry is a science.”
I’ve always had a great deal of respect for pastry chefs. Of course, I love desserts, but I’ve always felt it to be an under-appreciated specialty. I’ve often found bakers and pastry chefs to be some of the most exacting, persistent, and well-rounded chefs in food. Chef Matthew Dunn is no exception. Next time you’re devouring your baked goods at any of the Capital Hotel’s eating venues, send your compliments to the pastry chef. He deserves them.
For a look back on Chef Dunn’s creations for National Pie Month and this “Pie a Day” project, check out the gallery below: