Before rising as one of the top chefs in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Chef Carter figured he’d follow in the family business and pursue a role in the fashion industry.
“I spent a lot of time in the back of my parents’ clothing stores, so I always thought I’d go into that,” he says.
Fortunately, that changed when Matt came home from a summer following the English rock band New Model Army across Western Europe and realized he wanted a culinary career. After high school, he'd held a job – just a job, not a calling – as a dishwasher at The Eggery breakfast restaurant in San Diego. He quickly advanced from dishwasher to prep cook to working on the line. So, when he decided cooking was a bonafide career option, he enrolled in and graduated from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. He worked in a few restaurants but it was still just a job that fit his late-night lifestyle.
The defining moment came when Chef Matt walked into Scottsdale's La Chaumiere.
Enamored with the artistry and precision of the French style, Chef Carter moved to France, immersing himself in the culture and cuisine that still influences his approach to food today.
Upon his return to Arizona in 1992, his Parisian experience helped him land a job as Chef de Partie at Christopher’s, the highly acclaimed restaurant of chef/restaurateur Christopher Gross, where he stayed for over six years. Gross was a caring mentor to Carter, who considers him his greatest influence in the culinary world. “I truly learned to cook from Chris,” he says, adding, “he taught me things you can’t learn at any culinary school”. Carter eventually ascended to the position of Chef de Cuisine at Christopher’s, which at the time was the preeminent dining venue in the burgeoning Phoenix metropolitan area.
Thanks to a chance meeting with super chef Thomas Keller in 1998, the young Chef Carter was given the opportunity to cook in Keller's acclaimed French Laundry in Napa Valley.
After working as Poissonnier for Keller, Carter returned to Scottsdale to take the job of Executive Chef at Michael’s at the Citadel, widely recognized for its contemporary American cuisine with European influences. After two-and-a-half years at Michael’s, Carter left to collaborate with current partner, Terry Ellisor, becoming the Executive Chef/owner at Zinc Bistro, a New-York style Parisian bistro at Kierland in 2001.
Chef Carter travels extensively, enjoying and learning from the menus and kitchens of fellow chefs to satisfy his thirst for culinary knowledge and a more in-depth understanding of other cuisines.
Fast forward to 2008 when Carter and Ellisor began brainstorming a new restaurant concept. What started somewhat as a joke to "open a pork taco shack" based on Carter's affinity for the humble food, coupled with a fortuitous gift of a la caja china or pig roasting box from Chef Douglas Rodriguez, came the inspiration for their next endeavor, The Mission.
"I have a wide palate and I wanted to bring in flavors from Spain and Central America," says Carter. Entrepreneur Brian Raab joined the partnership to open the original location of The Mission in Old Town Scottsdale featuring Modern Latin cuisine.
Not long after, one of the oldest houses in Scottsdale-just down the street from Carter's beloved La Chaumiere-hit the market. The trio scooped it up to open The House Brasserie, where Chef Carter provided his take on American gastro pub cuisine until selling the restaurant in October 2018.
In 2016, Scottsdale native and restaurateur Mark Drinkwater approached Chef Carter and Raab to partner in a new restaurant at the corner of Lincoln and Shea. The concept for an Italian restaurant featuring products common to Arizona and Italy had been simmering in Carter's mind for sometime and thus, Fat Ox was born. Paying homage to the Bue Grasso, or fat ox festival, in Carrù Italy, Chef Carter’s menu at Fat Ox features hand-made pastas, wild seafood and pecan-wood grilled meats.
At nearly the same time, the partnership of Carter, Raab and Ellisor grabbed the opportunity to bring their award-winning menu and atmosphere at The Mission "North" to a prime location at Kierland Commons.
Never content with the status quo, Chef Matt would one day love to write a cookbook that would help define food and what it means to him, host a James Beard dinner and open a uniquely Arizona restaurant featuring local products.
When Chef Matt isn’t in the kitchen, he likes to be outdoors with his three kids—camping, skiing and gardening. He cultivates obscure peppers that he enjoys experimenting with in his own kitchen. He’s also a self-diagnosed audio-file with an eclectic taste for music ranging from his roots listening to the Beatles with his Mom and the Stones with his dad, to old school English punk and synthetic pop.