After 12 years at Pierpont's Matt Barnes barely knows any other life other than living and breathing cooking. He wouldn't have it any other way. In the early years of his marriage he did a lot of cooking at home but felt he needed more training and inspiration and his wife encouraged him to make the jump into the 3-year culinary training program at Johnson County Community College. Soon he quickly landed work at Pierpont's as a prep cook and quickly proved himself to then Exec Chef, Patrick Williams who accepted him as an apprentice and mentored him. Chef Barnes credits him with invaluable lessons that make the critical difference in his ascension to the EC slot -"dealing with people was his forte, and I learned from him how to be fair and to listen to people which are key to kitchen management.
Another great Chef that has influenced Matt Barnes is the award-winning cookbook author and Public Television cooking show [Mexico: One Plate at a Time] personality Rick Bayless. What impresses Chef Matt about Rick Bayless is" his great humility as a chef [perhaps despite his great celebrity] and for his total respect for the culture he so ably presents in his lifelong work." In talking to Chef Matt it's not hard to see those qualities emerging in his own career.
Pierpont's offers much to local guests but also to an ever growing tourist clientele. Perhaps it's best offering is the chef-driven menu that recently was awarded "KC's Best Fine Dining" honors in KC Visitors annual survey. Chef Matt tells us that what gets him out of bed in the morning is the opportunity to join the other talented members of his culinary team to create and prepare each of the wonderful items featured in their traditional steak and seafood menu that borrows culturally from old world influences in composing each plate. Matt says. "composition is what sets us apart" and so he appreciates the collaboration and how team members hand off ideas and contribute to building Pierpont traditions.
It's become almost cliche to mention that any restaurant, including Pierpont's, values local, sustainable providers to prepare dishes that stay and close to origin farms as possible. And they also are working hard to improve quality. Chef Matt loves the dry-aged beef they serve but he imagines a time when the aging will be done in house. That's a challenge for a restaurant of their size, but Matt is clearly up for it!
What does this dedicated and impassioned chef do to relax? Well, you might be surprised in meeting this soft-spoken guy that his other passions include karate. indoor rock-climbing and music [very eclectic tastes] but the very best is "live performance." Of course, he is a loving husband and the father of 2 children, a son  and a daughter  so there is always room for family time. We both had to laugh about his guilty food pleasure - nacho cheese- which he claims to enjoy as an accompaniment to everything. And as for an all time favorite restaurant, then he says he'll make sure every visit to Chicago includes food at Rick Bayless' iconic venue Topolobampo.
We wrapped our chat with more talk about Pierpont's and some old and new features that aren't as well known to many guests. Chef Matt acknowledges that everybody loves their iconic bar area but the real Pierpont's is their dining rooms so imbued with Union Station history. The private dining space, the Wine Cellar, on the lower level, has a speakeasy feel; and the expanded indoor patio space that spills out into the grand hall feeds off the energy of railroad travelers, exhibit and retail visitors as well as workers in the many corporate and not for profit Station tenants.
For a bird's eye view of the hall, with it's extravagant holiday decorations book an event in their newly remodeled space on the second floor [seats 60 easily]. But no matter where you sit in their venue, you're sure to savor and enjoy the deliciously creative compositions that steam out of Pierpont's kitchen under Chef Matt's watchful eye.