Chef Matt McCallister thrives on the energy of the kitchen: an atmosphere that is at once chaotic and structured. After cooking in kitchens across the country, Matt found his home in Dallas at FT33, his first solo venture which he opened at the age of 31 in October 2012. He quickly guided the restaurant to local acclaim, including earning a glowing five-star review from Dallas Morning News Restaurant Critic Leslie Brenner, and recognition of Restaurant of the Year by D magazine in December 2013. Matt and FT33 have since made waves on the national scale, including a spot on the 2013 Top 50 New Restaurant lists from Bon Appétit, a 2014 Food & Wine Best New Chef nod, and James Beard Foundation Award semifinalist nods for Best Chef Southwest 2014 and 2015.
Matt’s second restaurant, Filament, opened December 2015 in Dallas’ Deep Ellum. The restaurant honors simply prepared ingredients of the South with a casual approach to dining. “The menu at Filament is full of items I eat on my own time,” says Matt. The beverage program features a curated selection of wines, a rotating lineup of craft beers on tap, and an inventive selection of seasonal cocktails that guests enjoy around the expansive bar.
Matt built the success of FT33 on high-quality ingredients presented in inventive, artful dishes, offering diners an experience on par with world-class restaurants around the globe. As a chef, Matt enjoys playing around with new techniques and flavor combinations, always remembering to balance the familiar with the unexpected. FT33 offers a fun and casual environment in which to try something new, like fermented onion in a hanger tartare dish or caramelized whey served in a pork loin dish. “Diners are more receptive to different experiences now than when we first opened,” he explains. “They expect something at least a little bit surprising.”
Matt has always had an artistic side and a love of food. Growing up he enjoyed cooking at home and always tended to a large garden. When choosing his career path, he felt torn between the visual and culinary arts, and he attended the Metropolitan Arts Institute in Phoenix in 2000 before ultimately choosing cooking. “Art was a passion that always competed with food, but cooking gives me an opportunity to blend the two,” says the Scottsdale, AZ native, whose artistic sensibilities were influenced by his designer mother and scientific curiosity can be attributed to his research engineer father.
In 2006, Matt was looking for a fresh start in a new city, so he applied for a job at Stephan Pyles Restaurant in Dallas. With no formal training, the aspiring chef began working the garde manger station rapidly ascending the kitchen hierarchy to the sous chef role in just over a year, and executive chef within three years. With Pyles’ guidance fostering his “raw and natural ability,” Matt sought out opportunities to stage in revered kitchens across the county. Upon returning to Dallas in 2011, Matt worked with two design friends to open Campo Modern Country Bistro, for which he consulted on the menu of rustically elegant nose-to-tail cuisine and inspired housemade salumi and charcuterie. He then opened FT33.
As much as he makes his food all about the ingredients, Matt plays equal attention to the presentation. He credits Michelin-starred French Chef Michel Bras’ Essential Cuisine as playing a large part in forming his food philosophy. “He changed the way I approach and respect food. His dishes are clean, uncluttered, and beautifully presented. I’m constantly creating dishes with his cuisine in mind,” he says. Dallas locals and visitors alike have flocked to FT33 for the unparalleled cuisine and the unpretentious environment. Fans of his now have a second place to visit with the opening of Filament.
When not cooking at the restaurants, Matt can be found shopping at farmers’ markets, going on long runs, which he says is when most of his new menu ideas come to light, reading cookbooks, or catching a DnB show. His favorite time, though, is spent with his daughter, Ella. The six-year-old enjoys shopping, hanging out at the park, reading, working on puzzles, and painting.
With a Master’s Degree in Business and more than fifteen years of restaurant operations, staff training, and beverage management experience, Jeff Gregory has been working alongside Chef Matt McCallister since the early days of FT33 in 2013. Now, Gregory expands his role and reach, bringing his knowledge and expertise to Filament as Managing Partner overseeing the beverage program and front-of-house operations.
Under McCallister and Gregory’s guidance, FT33 quickly received local acclaim, earning a glowing five-star review from Dallas Morning News Restaurant Critic Leslie Brenner, and recognition as Restaurant of the Year by D magazine in December 2013. As General Manager and Wine Director of FT33, Gregory is responsible for overseeing all beverage operations, which have been touted by the Dallas Morning News as one of the best wine programs in Dallas. FT33 has also made waves on the national scale, including a spot on the 2013 Top 50 New Restaurant lists from Bon Appétit and the America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants Wine Enthusiast list in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Gregory has been tirelessly dedicated to the goal of presenting supreme service and an ever evolving beverage program at FT33. His passion for the industry can already be seen in the early stages of Filament, where the inviting wine, craft beer, and cocktail menus complement the creative Southern cuisine.
Gregory has always had a great love for food and wine which led him to begin working in restaurants while attending the University of Texas in Austin. There, he began to work his way up the ranks of the local restaurant scene.
In 2006, Gregory graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and continued his journey in the food and beverage industry by beginning a career in fine wine sales with Texas’ largest fine wine distributor. Quickly realizing that his favorite part of the job was providing wine and beverage staff training seminars, Gregory accepted an instructor position teaching wine, beverage and restaurant management classes at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas in 2008 while working as Consulting Wine Director for rise n°1, The Commissary, and other Dallas-area restaurants.
When Gregory is not at FT33 or Filament, he can be found cooking for his family, reading with his daughter, or creating traditional black and white photographs and prints.
At Filament, Pastry Chef Maggie Huff expands upon her hyper-seasonal desserts that she offers FT33, offering a superior take on classic pies, cakes, crisps, ice creams, and more. Throughout her time at Chef Matt McCallister’s Design District restaurant, she has become known and loved for her creative offerings, including her Passion Fruit Semifreddo, Walnut Tart with Gorgonzola Mousse and Fig Compote, and many more. Fans of hers can now satisfy their sweet tooth at both FT33 and Filament. Her desserts at FT33 showcase flavors that span from sweet to savory, oftentimes challenging traditional thoughts on dessert. At Filament she presents her own take on approachable sweets, like Pecan Pie with bourbon vanilla ice cream, Yellow Cake with chocolate buttercream, and more.
Huff considers herself fortunate to be able to get her hands on outstanding products such as local honey from Texas Honey Bee Guild, Caprino Royale fresh goat cheese, and produce from the same farmers sourced by the savory side of the restaurants. “I believe in there being a balanced finish to the meal,” says the pastry chef. “Dessert shouldn’t be an afterthought, but a continuation of what you’ve had prior so that there is some cohesiveness to the entire dining experience. That’s important, and to accomplish that, the flavors all should be balanced. Nothing overly sweet or overly done.”
Reflecting the seasons of Texas means her menus change regularly. “Some desserts are short-lived, and some last a little longer,” she says. “Luckily, chocolate doesn’t have a season.”
Prior to FT33 and Filament, Huff had the media swooning over her sophisticated desserts at Pyramid at the Fairmont Dallas. She originally met and worked with McCallister in the highly lauded kitchen of Stephan Pyles Restaurant. The Dallas native also had a stint in New York City, first attaining her culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute, then working the back of the house in several restaurants, doing both savory and pastry. Her love of food goes back even further: Huff has been baking since she was a kid, cultivating a curiosity in the kitchen while learning from her mother the importance of measuring ingredients.
Outside of work, Huff spends a lot of time in her home kitchen, and tending to the meat smoker, to entertain family and friends. The avid reader is also a self-professed New York Times crossword junkie.