An Interview with Matt Spillers, Chef of Eno's, Oddfellows and the Soon-to-Open Union Bear
Matt Spillers' parents, Allen and Donna Spillers, have had long careers in the local restaurant business. While raising their three boys in Dallas, dinner out was more than just a family meal together, but also an on-going education on how to run a restaurant.
Always drawn to the kitchen, after high school Matt enrolled in culinary school in New York and eventually moved to Oak Cliff, where he opened Eno's, then Oddfellows, which he co-owns. His latest project, Union Bear in the West Village, should open within weeks.
We sat down recently to discuss how he started his first two projects, how beer brings people together and, most importantly, how camaraderie and the right people often mean a successful business.
Your parents have had long careers opening and remodeling restaurants. Did you experience that much growing up?
Yes, when they would go and do remodels and design projects, we'd travel with them. They also worked out of the house a lot so in the evening they'd always want to get out to eat. And we would pretty much scrutinize the place. We'd look at everything from the fixtures in the bathrooms to every aspect of the carpentry.
When did you first get into the restaurant business?
I always loved cooking, so right after high school I got a job at Marie Gabrielle. I didn't know much about cooking, but the chef sort of took me under his wing. He would make me stay late and do extra chores and showed me things like how to properly use a knife. Eventually he gave me a recommendation for culinary school and I went to the CIA in New York.
Where did you externship while at the CIA?
At Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City under Alfred Portale. It was really an interesting time to be there because that year he got Best Restaurant in the Nation by the James Beard House.
What did you learn from working in New York City?
Humility and hospitality are probably the two biggest things.
What do you mean by humility?
It's a very humbling business. What we do is a reflection of ourselves, and you're putting yourself out there and anyone can say what they think. It was also humbling in the fact that celebrity chefs would come in and work in the kitchen to work for free, just because there's always more to learn.