Bremen's Wine & Tap opened its doors in Lower Highland just over two months ago, but it's already facing a big change: Matt Selby, the restaurant's opening chef, is no longer in the kitchen. In an email, Selby chalked the split up to a cash shortfall following a slower-than-projected opening. "Business did not take off like we anticipated, and my high salary needed to be cut...and despite pouring my heart and soul into the place, I simply could not go lower," he wrote.
By phone, he described the parting as mutual. "It all happened so quickly," he says. "We said, what are we going to do? What can you do? What can I do? For the sake of the restaurant, let’s call it."
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He also sung the praises of his sous-chef, Isabel Ranney: "She’s so awesome. That's probably the hardest thing about all of this; I loved working with her." When we sat down with Selby for our Chef and Tell column earlier this month, he told us that he and Ranney had a cooking chemistry he's rarely experienced. "It's like we'd been cooking together forever," he said then.
Selby's menu at Bremen's was considerably more rustic than at places he's worked in the past (especially his fifteen-year stint at Vesta), an evolution that came from simplifying his life and tempering his instinct to work with everything in the pantry. That focus fit owner Dina Castillo's vision at this spot, because she was looking to create a neighborhood restaurant.
Castillo confirms that Ranney has assumed the executive-chef role and will unveil her first menu at the beginning of September. "We are very excited about Isabel and the talent she brings to Bremen's," she says.
As for what's next for Selby, the chef isn't totally sure, in part because the physical demands of the industry are beginning to take their toll on him. "I’m 43 — the physical aspect is not getting easier," he told us a few weeks back. He says back pain issues are interfering with the long hours he's required to spend in the kitchen, which has him reconsidering his next steps.