A Renewed Purpose: Matt Golinski
After over four months in hospital including six weeks in an induced coma, Matt Golinski headed straight for his local farmer’s market. He wanted to know that he could still cook. “I bought ingredients and cooked dinner. It was very painful, it took me a long time, I had poor grip strength, but I did it. It was important to me to know that I could still cook.”
In the early hours of Boxing Day 2011, Matt lost his entire family in a house fire. He almost died, suffering burns to 40% of his body. Multiple surgeries, countless skin grafts and painful physiotherapy meant an arduous recovery. While his technical skills, confidence and passion shaped his abilities as a chef, his humility, resilience and character helped him overcome the inconceivable, find renewed purpose and shape the man he is today.
Matt came to national attention as Executive Chef at Ricky Ricardo’s in Noosa, which was considered one of the finest regional restaurants in the land. He went on to operate The Rolling Dolmade catering company and was part of the original team of the TV series, Ready Steady Cook. It was there our friendship was forged over food, Fiano and Fortaleza.
His days are now spent quite differently from when he was at the coalface doing endless double shifts, building his reputation and inspiring his team.
Today he wears many hats. His day job is consultant chef at Peppers Resort in Noosa, where ‘View by Matt Golinski’ has upended a generic hotel offering by creating a soulful sense of origin.
Matt bubbles with excitement when he explains, “In 18 months we’ve gone from having eight suppliers to 80. I want to give people a clear sense of where they are when they dine with us. I am proud of my backyard and I see a paddock-to-plate philosophy as central to what I do.”
patience in provenance
Matt spends a lot of time on the road. In the past weeks he has cooked dinners in Winton, Goondiwindi, and Rockhampton. He writes his menus after exhaustive research on what is grown in a region at that given time. As he explains, “I love the challenge that provenance gives me as a cook. I relish having to improvise when I get to a remote location and things aren’t available or as I hoped, as it teaches me patience.” He goes on, “It’s the only thing that makes sense to me, being close to the earth and feeling the rhythm of the seasons. I never bring a team with me; I prefer to rope in the local kids to help me in the kitchen. It’s not without its challenges, but I love this aspect.”
Each year he cooks a paddock-to-plate lunch with students at Gympie and Beenleigh high schools using produce from their school farm.
“The teachers look forward to it and the children get a lot out of it,” he says.
It occurs to me that Matt feels a sense of holistic responsibility to the industry and the future, speaking in such a resolute way about the challenges. “We have a real skills shortage in our industry, no one wants to cook. I enjoy spending time with young enthusiastic children and being the spark that will light the fire.” When I ask Matt why he feels compelled to help he says, “I want to show them the joy that can be had from food. As so many people have helped me, every cause seems important.”
Another passion of Matt’s is his role as Gympie Region Food and Culinary Tourism Ambassador. He doesn’t seek the limelight; rather he relishes the opportunity to shine the light on his food heroes, the farmers, fishermen, growers and producers. At the Curated Plate Festival in August, Matt boarded the Mary Valley Rattler to prepare a ‘deguSTATION’ as it steamed through the Mary Valley. That’s his happy place, immersed in a region, learning about the people and the produce.
Matt applies himself to his myriad roles with an energy, focus and sense of duty. It’s such an impressive quality, so when I ask him how he feels about being an inspiration, he answers with typical humility. “I feel a range of emotions; I am grateful that what I do with my profession is inspirational. The truth is, I don’t wake up in the morning feeling it is my job to be inspirational.”
Resilience has always been part of Matt’s personality, but viewed through the lens of the accident, he thinks about it simply, “Everyone handles situations differently. There was a lot I couldn’t control, but there was a lot I could. I could cook, I could (eventually) exercise.”
When he muses on the future, Matt contemplates, “By the time I have my third child – he is currently dad to two-year-old Aluna with partner Erin Yarwood – I want to sit back, tinker with my motorbikes, play drums.” He then adds, “When the time is right, I’ll open a small place in the Hinterland, a place that’s mine. I don’t have anything to prove, I’ll do it for the right reasons, I’ll know when the time is right.”