Matchbox's chef Jeff Richardson: Unmatched

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Entertainment,Food and Drink,Alexandra Greeley

If you love pizza and other casual American dishes, you will certainly wish you were Jeff Richardson, the executive chef of the recently opened Matchbox restaurant on 14th Street. The newest addition to the company's range of easy-going restaurants, this new eatery will challenge even the most dedicated dieter to pass up a bistro burger with Gorgonzola or a hot-out-of-the oven fire and smoke pizza, given an extra flavor boost with chipotle chiles.

A native of New Jersey whose mother moved with him to Frederick when he was a teenager, Richardson worked as a waiter in a local restaurant. As fate would have it, one day, management said the kitchen staff needed help. Richardson volunteered and found he really liked the experience. That seemed to set his course, for Richardson attended culinary school at the Baltimore International College, and while there, he also worked part-time as a grill and a line cook at the Marriott Renaissance hotel. But D.C. beckoned, he says, because he was looking for more of a culinary challenge.

"I decided to come to D.C. because there was a more interesting food scene," he explained.

If you go
Matchbox 14th Street
Where: 1901 14th St. NW
Info: 202-328-0369; matchbox14thstreet.com
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 5 to 10:30 p.m.; Friday, 5 to 11:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

He first landed at the now-closed Mie N Yu in Georgetown, where he worked as a sous chef. He then worked briefly for a country club in Maryland, before landing a position with the Matchbox restaurant on Capitol Hill. After a stint in the restaurant group's Rockville location, Richardson is now the master of his own domain. "Some of the dishes are my own recipes," he said, noting that steak frites and the coconut-braised short ribs are his creations.

"My palate has done a 180-degree turn," he says, recalling how his parents were meat-and-potatoes eaters. But today, they totally support his career choice, even flying up from Florida for the recent opening of this Matchbox. It follows, of course, that Richardson has no regrets, except wishing he had attended culinary school earlier. "I love going to work," he says. "This is the right career path, and working here is like being with an extended family."

Q&A

Q. What is your comfort food?

A. It's pasta. My stepdad is full-blown Italian. Sunday afternoon macaroni reminds me of home.

Q. What's in your fridge?

A. Stocked full of venison. I love to hunt deer.

Q. What are your favorite ingredients?

A. Fresh fruits, particularly apples. I love cooking with them.

Q. What is your signature dish?

A. Right now, the short ribs. ... It's out of the box.

Q. Which are your favorite restaurants?

A. Corduroy. And I am a big fan of Jaleo. I love the tapas scene.

Recipe: Coconut Curry Short Ribs with Turmeric Baby Carrots and Cauliflower

Serves 4

4 short ribs, bone-in

2 tablespoons seasoning mix (see below)

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons yellow curry powder

1/2 teaspoon diced jalapeno

1/2 teaspoon chopped cilantro

2 cups turmeric vegetables (see below)

2 cups cooked sliced fingerling potatoes

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Season short ribs with seasoning mix. In a large saute pan, sear short ribs until brown on all sides. Add coconut milk, sugar and yellow curry powder to pan, cover with foil and place in 250-degree oven for 3 hours or until tender. Remove from oven and let rest. Remove short ribs from pan and keep warm. Put the coconut braising liquid in a saucepan and add jalapeno and cilantro. Cook over medium-low heat until it is reduced by half; do not boil.

Heat vegetables and arrange in center of four plates. Top each with a short rib and spoon sauce over top.

Seasoning mix:

1 tablespoon garam masala

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt and pepper

Turmeric vegetables:

2 cups cauliflower florets

12 baby carrots

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Mix together all spices. Add oil and vegetables. Mix well, spread on baking sheet. Bake in 400-degree oven until tender. Remove from the oven.

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