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Hive Chef Matthew McClure Sees Opportunity in Having a Full Plate

3 min read

Matthew McClure, 37, became executive chef at The Hive in the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville in July 2012 after five years as sous-chef at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock.

McClure, of Little Rock, briefly attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where an engineering professor told him he had almost attended culinary school, sparking McClure’s desire to become a chef. After earning a degree from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, he worked at restaurants in Boston and Cambridge before returning to Arkansas.

McClure has been named a semifinalist for three consecutive years for the James Beard Foundation Awards’ best chef in the South. This year’s semifinalists are announced this month.

What is the challenge to being a chef in a growing area with such a diverse clientele such as Bentonville?

Bentonville clientele are well-traveled individuals. They have high expectations and opinions in regards to good food and service. It allows us to remain humble and on our game to improve every day. It is not a challenge, but rather an opportunity.

How do you decide which food trends to avoid and which ones to put on your menu?

Not all trends are created equal. Most of the trends I keep up with are cooking techniques. The techniques are not specifically listed on the menu, as the names can be a bit esoteric. I want our guests to feel relaxed and enjoy our culinary creativity; therefore, my criterion when deciding what trends to follow is simple: I want the food to be honest, soulful and with a hint of playfulness. I strive to constantly evolve the menu to keep it fresh and engaging for not only the guest but for the team, myself included.

You have a staff of five sous-chefs and 20 cooks; what is your leadership style?

My leadership style is fairly simple. I think of myself as working for my sous-chefs. My job is to provide what they need to be successful at their tasks. There is a high level of importance placed on communicating expectations clearly. I am fortunate to have a great team who are all career-minded cooks and chefs looking to grow into the next generation of chefs in our community.

What’s most important to you as a chef?

Cooking food that I am proud of is the most important thing to me as a chef. That goes hand in hand with my communication with the team and development of relationships with farmers.

If you were cooking your last meal, what would you make?

If I were landlocked, I would create a perfectly roasted chicken with braised turnip greens, stewed new potatoes and maybe salsa verde as a condiment. If I were on a coast, I would create a whole fish cooked with clams, mussels in a fumet with some grilled bread and a heavy portion of rouille.

How did your love of cooking develop?

My parents made a big effort to cook “real” food for my brothers and me. A large part of our dinner table came from our many hunting and fishing trips as a family. My family life played a large part in my love of food, which continued to develop during high school when I worked in some restaurants where the energy and stress of a busy line initially drove me into cooking. From there, I attended culinary school and grew more interested in technique and refinement and worked in kitchens that had higher expectations, from their cooks to the farms that they used. My love of cooking seems to grow more and more with each new experience.

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