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September, 2008, Page 195
Photos by Chris bassett
He’s baaaack. Everyone’s favorite chef, Eddie Matney, is keeping house
in a sharp-looking, cozy abode that serves up fan favorites along
with a few new surprises.
eturn with me to those plummy days of the mid-1980s, when Phoenix was smaller, times were better and dining at the latest trendy restaurant was practically a sacrament.
There was a new chef in town getting lots of buzz. He didn’t much resemble the European-trained dudes in their towering white toques who owned the high-profile spots or ran the resort restaurants. The baseball cap-wearing 25-year-old heading up the kitchen at Steamers had a different kind of background. His Lebanese parents brought him up on boldly seasoned Middle Eastern fare such as kefta, kibbee and kebobs. He learned to cook on the job and, hailing from the East Coast, had a deep familiarity and sure hand with seafood preparation. An out-sized personality, unlike those of his more reserved peers, endeared him to diners.
It didn’t win over everybody, however. Noting uneveness in some of his creations, The Arizona Republic’s restaurant critic opined he would be better off spending more time in the kitchen and less time on the floor shmoozing customers. The chef responded by handing out buttons that proudly proclaimed, “Eddie shmoozed me at Steamers.”
That knack for turning lemons into lemon basil-infused oil is one of the reasons Eddie Matney has reigned as the Valley’s favorite populist chef for almost two decades.
After leaving Steamers, he and a partner opened Kous Kooz, a florid bistro on Seventh Street just off the Camelback Corridor. Bad name for sure, but his self-described “Ameriterranean” food thrilled people with its fusion of exotic and homey. Since then, through various venues and turns of fortune, Matney has prevailed. Like the Frank Sinatra song, he’s been up and down and over and out, but media and diner support for him has never waned. His latest venture, Eddie’s House, was greeted with a blast of opening-night publicity that could easily have heralded the Second Coming.
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