Q&A with Alex Stratta, new culinary director at MATCH

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Q&A Issue: August 2017

Alex Stratta at MATCH. Photo courtesy Knife & Fork Media Group.Downtown Phoenix has just added another culinary luminary to its roster: James Beard award-winning Chef Alex Stratta has recently taken over as culinary director at MATCH: Restaurant & Cocktails inside the chic and arty FOUND:RE Hotel.

Stratta’s storied career includes stints at Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician, ALEX and Stratta restaurants inside the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, as well as Prado at the Omni Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale. His accomplishments include a coveted two-star rating by the Michelin Guide (three times over, in fact, for his namesake restaurant ALEX in Las Vegas) and Stratta was once named Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef.

First on his to-do list at MATCH is to completely revamp the menu, which skewed to a "global street food" theme (and didn't wow our dining critic). Ahead of Stratta's menu debut in September, PHOENIX caught up with the guy who most recently raised eyebrows by hanging his hat at the respectable but decidedly un-showy and non-James Beard-y The Herb Box.

What are your plans for the restaurant?
The menu will probably have some Mediterranean undertones because I can’t help myself, that’s pretty much how I cook. More so, I want to have identifiable items on the menu. We’re going to have a lot of healthy fare, vegetarian options and some basics that people can identify with, whether it’s the world’s best “XYZ,” or it’s a BLT or a hamburger, we want to make a really good one using wonderful product and really taking care of the food. Then we’re going to have some flair where foodies or more adventurous diners will have an opportunity to try something a little bit more out of the box.

How will MATCH fit into the local dining scene?
Our goal here is to become a really great neighborhood place, because as you know, Downtown Phoenix is exploding. We want to stay relevant, [so] pricing and what we offer is important. We don’t want to go too far out that it narrows the interest from the locals and we have to be cognizant of the hotel guests and what they want, which is exciting for me because I’ve been in hotels and casinos my whole career.

Are you continuing with the menu that’s in place?
We are. We’re going to slowly adjust it because it’s actually a nice menu and what’s fun about it for me, honestly, is that I’ve never done fusion-style food. I’m learning a lot, which is great, because I know my way around Mediterranean pretty well and this has got some Asian influence, so I’m having a really good time with it. We’re trying to make the best version of whatever was currently on this menu.

Will you be sourcing local ingredients?
Local is important and I want to be as sensitive to it and as involved with it as I can. Because of our short and unusual growing season, you just can’t do local all the time because it’s very limiting. Obviously when the farmers’ markets are flourishing, I’m there. But now when it’s eggplants, tomatoes, and basil, there’s not much there. It all has to do with what’s available and [optimal].

What excites you most about this project?
I fell in love with this place as soon as I walked in. I haven’t been excited like this about something in so long because I’m actually cooking. I became an executive chef and I had these restaurants in Las Vegas and I don’t want to sound too crass, but the better you get at [cooking], the less of it you do. I’m going to get back to basics also. Whether somebody likes it or not, I appreciate, respect and honor that, but I know the quality that I’m going to be putting out is as good as I can make it and that’s the goal.