‘Throughout my career I’d known people who’d gone there and while I was at The Driftwood, we visited and ate at Eleven Madison Park. It changed my perspective on what a restaurant should be. It wasn’t just about the food anymore; it was about the experience and they could literally change people’s lives with that experience.’

Making it his mission to work at the three-star restaurant, Matt persistently sent in applications until he was invited for an interview, and after impressing Daniel Humm’s executive sous chef with a potato dish of his own creation, he was offered a one-year contract.

Going in as a commis chef, over the course of the year Matt was quickly promoted, moving around from section to section, but he took a particular shine to the meat roast. ‘You had to move really quick there,’ he explains. ‘They’d give you six hours of work and four to do it in, but I got on really well with it. It was just an incredible feeling to be stood there cooking the famous duck that the restaurant’s known for, knowing that people around the world are looking at their books and Instagram. I was humbled to be a part of it.’ Having impressed the Eleven Madison Park team with his ability, Matt was offered the chance to stay on for a further three years but ultimately decided it was time to start cooking his own food, so when the opportunity to return once again to The Montagu Arms to oversee the kitchen, he didn’t have to think twice.

In January 2019, over twelve years after Matt first set foot in that kitchen, Matt took over as head chef at the hotel’s main restaurant The Terrace. However, after so many years working in other restaurants it took time for him to find his own style. ‘For the first six months or so, I was doing food that was very influenced by where I’d worked,’ he explains. ‘I was still proud of it but I was definitely showcasing stuff that I’d learnt elsewhere. But over time I’ve really taken a step back and tried to think about the food here and what’s important for me.’ Since then, Matt has come to the realisation that championing the area’s amazing produce, such as the New Forest’s famous pannage pork, is what he wants his cooking to be about. He’s pared down his dishes as a result, allowing each ingredient on the plate to shine. ‘We really believe in where we are and the products we get,’ he adds. ‘We treat everything with the utmost respect and it seems to go down really well with the guests.’

Matt’s career has already taken him all over the world, but even after working at one of its best restaurants, it was returning to the New Forest that helped him realise what he wanted to cook. Now as head chef at The Montagu Arms, he’s using all of his experience as a chef and knowledge of the area to shout about the amazing local produce, producing dishes that combine contemporary ideas with classical foundations to create a fantastic representation of the New Forest’s larder.