Mattie’s Southern Kitchen recently opened in LA, and while I haven’t had a chance to sample its wares, I thought I’d check in with Chris Rattican, the brains behind this operation.
1) Who’s Mattie? And what’s on the menu? What’s your background with Southern food? And what defines it for you?
Mattie’s Southern Kitchen is named after Mattie Bradsher. Mattie Bradsher worked as a housekeeper for my family during my 22 years in North Carolina.
Mattie was a southern black woman who taught me a lot about acceptance. Growing up in the South in the early 80′s, racist thought was never too far away. Thanks to Mattie and my parents the idea of hate based on skin color just never made any sense to me.
I could go on all day about how much Mattie means to me and the lessons she taught me, but I’ll get to the cooking part.
As a child, I would watch her cook. She would make biscuits stuffed with salty Smithfield ham. She filled handmade pie crusts with homegrown apples and then fried them up in butter. She set the bar for every piece of fried chicken I have ever eaten. I try with every piece of chicken I fry to duplicate it. And though I’ve come close, I never will.
Mattie’s menu is constantly changing. The staples are fried chicken, Eastern Carolina pulled pork, shrimp n’ grits, buttermilk biscuits, mac & cheese, collard greens and catfish & shrimp po boys. We sometimes offer jambalaya, gumbo and red beans & rice. When we hit the streets for late night, we offer other southern snacks like hush puppies and fried pickles.
2) What’s your background in food/cooking/eating? How’d this truck thing start for you? What are your favorite non-Twittering trucks?
2) I have never had any formal culinary training. Since I was a young kid I liked to cook. The day I learned to melt cheese on a hot dog in the microwave was the day I started to really dig cooking and I just continued wanting to learn more.
For the last eight years I have cooked a Southern feast for my friends to eat while watching the UNC-Duke basketball game. The small gathering of friends took on a life of its own and now over 50 folks usually show up. Every year folks fuss at me to open a restaurant. So I figured I’d try this truck thing out to see if those folks were just being polite or if people truly dug my grub.
Non-twittering trucks. Man, I don’t even know anything going on with any other truck but mine right now. I don’t mean that in a pretentious way at all. What I mean is that we have a very small team, and if I’m not sleeping, I’m working. So I’m not familiar with any of the names of the non-twittering trucks.
3) Where’d you get the truck? What did it take to get it all set up and ready? What’s the hardest thing about driving the truck besides parallel parking?
3) The truck is surprisingly easy to drive. Sure, it takes some getting used to, but its not really that bad. You just have to pay attention because it doesn’t react quite as fast as a car.
4) What’s the best thing on the menu?
4) I don’t really know what he best thing on the menu is. The fried chicken plate is great because you get to try a couple of sides like mac n cheese and collard greens (which take two days to prepare). But you also get two sides with the barbecue plate which is eastern Carolina style pulled pork meaning it is cooked for over 10 hours and tossed in a vinegar based sauce. But if you’ve never tried shrimp n’ grits before…well, your just missing out on one of life’s finer treats. Oh, and biscuits are wonderful for breakfast, lunch, super or late night.
5) Do you serve sweet tea?
5) Wonderful question. The answer is yes. Though some days we don’t have time to prepare it, we are able to have about 20 gallons (or enough for about 5 guys) of it at any one time.