Executive Chef / Owner of Alamexo Mexican Kitchen
Restaurants are in Matt Lake’s blood. He literally grew up in the business. His parents owned a small general store in Circleville, N.Y. that also offered off-site catering, so by the time he was 13 years old he was creating parties and events with them, sometimes feeding 13,000 on any given weekend.
It taught him to love the business of food, but not necessarily the catering business. With this in mind as a life-long career, he graduated top of his class from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Hyde Park, N.Y. in 1991. He then interned with celebrated Chef Marcel Desaulniers, who is on Food & Wine magazine’s honor roll of American chefs, is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the CIA and boasts a myriad of awards from the James Beard Foundation, including “best dessert book, best chef Mid- Atlantic, outstanding pastry chef” and more. Through this connection, he was lucky enough to get involved with Chef Mark Miller of Coyote Café fame and helped him to open Red Sage in Washington, D.C.
That relationship has had an indelible stamp on the rest of Matt’s career. He had the opportunity to create one-on- one with Miller in the kitchens working on cookbooks and recipe development. It was there that Matt developed such a strong understanding of the culinary history of Mexico and huge respect for historic techniques and ingredients, many dating back to the Mayan civilization. “I feel so fortunate. He really took me under his wing. He taught me how to use my palate. Culinary school teaches you how to cook, not how to taste.”
Matt left Miller to explore some new avenues in food. He joined New Heights in Washington D.C., venturing into a new culinary focus, the emerging New American category. He started as a sous chef and within six months was running the kitchen, at the age of 22. It was at New Heights he received a high honor for such a young chef. In 1996, he got a call from Food & Wine magazine’s editor, telling him he’d been selected as their “Best New Chef” and asking to fly him to the F&W Classic in Aspen. “At first I thought they were trying to sell me something, so I kept ignoring the letters and calls. Then, I couldn’t tell anyone until they made the announcement on the last day! It really launched New Heights. We went from serving 90 diners on any given night to over 250. I was even on the front cover of the Washington Post food section!”
Matt decided it was time to return to New York. He joined up with the Myriad Restaurant Group and opened the first W hotel. He then turned his talents to 27 Standard and Jazz Standard. He decided to return to his culinary roots, cooking the foods of Mexico, and joined Roberto Santibañez at Rosa Mexicano. “This is the only cuisine I can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner,” quips Lake. “I just really love the food and the people.”
From there, Matt was considering opening a small place of his own in Brooklyn, when a kitchen designer he was working with put him together with three partners. He enthusiastically joined them in creating Besito Mexican restaurants, starting with the first in Huntington, N.Y. They had no designer and it was a welcome creative challenge for Matt to be involved in the overall restaurant experience and design, not just the kitchen.
Matt and his wife decided to return with their son to her native Utah. He was still flying back and forth working with Besito and they wanted him to continue working on projects that they planned to create and sell. Matt’s heart just wasn’t in it. He met his current partner, Sean Slatter, at a Ballet West fundraiser and the rest is history. With the initial thought that Salt Lake lacked a great New American restaurant, Matt created Zy, which only lasted 18 months. He realized that he needed to share his passion for the foods of Mexico with Salt Lake diners in a way they had never experienced before.
“There are so many Mexican restaurants in Salt Lake, but I wanted to show locals what true Mexican culinary specialties from various regions was really all about.” Named Best Mexican and Best New Salt Lake Restaurant by Salt Lake magazine in 2014 and again honored as Best in 2015 and 2016, Alamexo, and Matt, are changing the way people think about Mexican regional cuisine.
Manager of Alamexo Mexican Kitchen
Susan Bouldin, Alamexo Mexican Kitchen manager, has an effervescent personality, a sharp eye for detail and a deep caring for people, Susan ensures an amazing guest experience every day at Alamexo. Deeply passionate about providing stellar service and gently coaching her knowledgeable staff, one of her highest priorities is about creating memories.
In her robust culinary service career, she has come full circle. Her first restaurant job was at Chevy’s Fresh Mex in downtown SLC then she acquired and honed her fine dining service skills and knowledge while on the crack team hired to open the Grand America hotel’s Garden Café in 2001. She worked at Market Street Oyster Bar in downtown SLC from 2002-2011 where she really took the art of service to a new level. She refined her attention to detail and the talent it takes to create a truly personalized guest experience and a great team.
In 2011 she jumped at the chance to work with Chef Matt Lake of Food & Wine Best New Chef fame in the opening of the cutting edge New American restaurant Zy. Now firmly part of the Chef Lake work family and ethos, Susan embraces her role as general manager of Alamexo, and oversees service standards.