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What’s Cookin’ with our TREX17 Chef?

February 1, 2017

There’s a new chef in town at America’s Center in St. Louis, where we’ll gather for Travel Exchange ’17 Feb. 26-March 2. He’ll be fixin’ up our meals, so let’s get to know the man beneath the hat. Read our Q&A with Chef Matthew Walbaum.

NTA: Let’s start off with your background in cooking.
Chef Walbaum: I started washing dishes when I was 12 at a popular Italian deli here in St. Louis. The owner wrote my letter of recommendation to New England Culinary Institute after I worked in the restaurant throughout high school. After I completed my studies at NECI I did my externship at the Ritz-Carlton here. That’s where I really learned the most about cooking. Everything there was made from scratch from the breads, pastries, pate…we even made our own ketchup.

NTA: What’s your go-to meal to cook at home?
CW: I live very near The Hill here in St. Louis, so anything Italian is really popular. My son loves it when I make meatballs.

NTA: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
CW: Steak, steak, steak. Nothing is better than grilling a nice fat ribeye over a charcoal grill. No gas grills for this guy.

NTA: How long have you worked at America’s Center?
CW: I’ve been at America’s Center for a total of 10 years. My first stint I started out as an hourly supervisor, then worked my way up to executive sous chef. I left the company for a year and returned to Scottrade Center as executive sous chef for the last four years. I transferred back to America’s Center as executive chef in October.

NTA: What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
CW: I’d go with the emersion blender. It’s essential in all the marinades, soups and dressings we produce here.

NTA: What’s the best part about being a chef at a large convention center?
CW: The best part is that no two days are ever alike. One day you could be doing a large plate up for 17,000 people, the next you could be serving a 6,500 person Chef Table. The day after that I could be in Chicago working on new recipes. It always changes and that’s a challenge. That’s what really gets me going.

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