When Billy Roberson, Land’s End Resort’s former executive chef, left Homer for the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, resort management had only to look in-house for a replacement: Matt Orchard, former sous chef and PM kitchen manager.
Judging by evaluations submitted by guests a Feb. 5 “unveiling” of Orchard in his new role, he and the food coming out of his kitchen are a hit.
“We asked for direct and unnuanced feedback and he received that,” said Land’s End Resort owner Jon Faulkner of comment cards from the evening’s 60 guests. “The overwhelming response was extremely positive.”
The menu included some resort favorites: generously sized steaks, savory seafood and pasta combinations, elk meatloaf served atop potato pancakes and a unique duck pot pie, thick with juice and flavor.
“The elk meatloaf is something we added a few years ago. It was experimental at the time, but now it is probably consistently in the top two or three menu items,” said Faulkner.
Land’s End’s version of the pot pie is set apart by the roux, which “is where you’re really defining the recipe,” said Faulkner. Although it was “a little unusual” to add to the menu, “it’s something that is a popular, top-seller now.”
Exploring new food opportunities is something Orchard welcomes. Coming to Homer from Tacoma, Wash., he once worked construction during the summers and in restaurants during the winters. Over the years, his focus became more on developing a career in the restaurant business. Over 10 years, he worked his way up the ladder from dishwasher to chef.
In Tacoma, Orchard worked at C.I. Shenanigan’s, a steak and seafood restaurant on Tacoma’s waterfront, and Gateway To India, a restaurant serving authentic Indian cuisine.
In March 2012, his wife’s employer, Safeway, offered her a transfer to Homer. The couple relocated and in June of that year, Orchard began working at Land’s End. Because of his “commitment to his trade, passion for cooking and his leadership capabilities,” he was quickly promoted to the resort’s sous chef and evening kitchen manager position, said Faulkner.
In 2014, Orchard won Taste of Homer for best entrée and will be attempting to win gold for the second year in a row at the Taste of Kenai later this month.
Land’s End began its search for a new executive chef with an in-house “iron chef” cook-off with individuals interested in the position. Having won, Orchard went through what Faulkner described as a “90-day grist mill,” while menu items were reviewed, experimented with and improved upon.
“We were taking favorites and trying to make them better, enhance them, add visual, textural and taste corrections and modifications and make it more lively,” said Faulkner.
It also was a period for Orchard to get his feet firmly planted in executive chef territory. At Land’s End, those duties include management, special event execution, attention to ordering and general administrative duties, hiring, screening and training.
The Feb. 5 unveiling was Orchard’s official dinner debut and introduction to community and business leaders. He moved from table to table, introducing himself and answering questions.
“He’s a social guy and likes the element of contact with customers,” said Faulkner.
While he enjoys preparing seafood, Orchard also enjoys experimenting with ethnic recipes that allow him to draw uponwhat he learned at Gateway To India and his own interests in international flavors.
“One hundred percent of his focus is on his food,” said Faulkner. “The thing we love and respect about him is that he’s very much a team player, a people person, and takes constructive input very, very well. I’m expecting great things from him because of his approach to his craft. … He definitely is somebody who I feel could fall into that profile of a great chef.”
For Orchard, being at Land’s End is the perfect opportunity.
“Land’s End is everything you could ask for,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to grow. I like the kitchen, the crew, the company and the culture. And, of course, it has the best view.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Homer Chamber’s Business After Hours
When: 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19
Where: Land’s End Resort
The event is free and open to the public.