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Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef Matthew McDonald of TAMARAS BISTRO at National Hotel in Miami Beach

Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef Matthew McDonald of TAMARAS BISTRO at National Hotel in Miami Beach

Executive Chef Matthew McDonald hails from Michigan where he began his culinary career at the young age of 17. Mentored by James Beard Award-winning chef Jimmy Schmidt at The Rattle Snake Club in Detroit, he earned Sous Chef by age 20. In search of new culinary challenges, Matthew traveled the country, working in restaurants such as the Mobil Four Star restaurant Tapawingo in Ellsworth, Michigan. In 1999, he moved to South Florida and became Executive Sous Chef of the Key West Westin Resort and Marina. Next, he took his first lead as Executive Chef for the Pier House Resort and Spa with its newly built restaurant One Duval, which received the AAA Four Diamond award every year under his watch. Later he was the first American chef to oversee the brigade of the renowned Mobil Four Star and AAA Four Diamond French restaurant La Vieille Maison in Boca Raton. Currently Matthew is the Executive Chef at the National Hotel in South Beach (also AAA Four Diamond), where he presents a unique twist on fine French dining, mixed with American and Mediterranean inspired cuisine at the hotel's restaurant, Tamara's Bistro. had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Matthew McDonald about his career and Tamara's Bistro.

What was your earliest interest in cooking?

I like a lot of others fell into this career. I needed a job my first year in college and I had a roommate working as a cook in a fine dining restaurant. Once I stepped in I never stepped out. That was 27 years ago.

Who were some of your career mentors?

Every Chef I have ever met, worked with and worked for throughout my career has influenced me. The one Chef that had the most effect on me was a friend from Seattle whose background included Rovers and The Herbfarm. He was a Chef I worked side by side with in 3 different restaurants over a several year period when I was young. He taught me my foundation.

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

I have been lucky to touch a wide spectrum of this industry from Four Diamond French restaurants to Smoke Houses. Everything edible I see, touch, smell and taste intrigues me in one way or another. I think that's the effect food has on a Chef.

What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?

It is taking the knowledge you have obtained in your past and combining it with your current surroundings and seasonal ingredients in order to create a canvas. It is the core of what makes a Chefs dishes taste unique. Example - Quinoa Salad is everywhere. So, its Miami I better add to it lime, some mango, cucumber, cilantro and a nice piece of local Wahoo.

What is your favorite meal or meals?

I enjoy a really good steak off the grill with a really good Cabernet and a fresh artichoke. Other than that its anything my wife makes for me.

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.

We are a French-American Bistro with local influences. It has modern decor with an Art Deco Vibe. Tamara is open for breakfast lunch and dinner.

Tamara's Bistro is located at The National Hotel, 1677 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida 33139. Visit

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matthew McDonald

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