Food & Wine // 1 min Read

BlackSheep

Written by Palmetto Bluff

May 03, 2021

Written by: Courtney Hampson | Photography by: Krisztian Lonyai

An emergency room administrator walks away from a six-figure salary for a six-dollar-an-hour gig in a kitchen. After a decade in health care and despite the lucrative career trajectory, Matt Wallace’s heart was pointing him in another direction. So, he left the hospital behind and began a 60-mile commute to Athens, Georgia, and to Farm 255. There, the farm-to-table movement was in full bloom, and Wallace was hungry—for culinary skills and knowledge.

“At Farm 255, I learned how to take care of things. Every employee had to work on the farm at least once a month. Your pay was what you picked.” From there, he headed to Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, where owner/chef Kevin Gillespie’s Top Chef star was just starting to sparkle. At Woodfire, Wallace learned technique—how to cut a fish, how to season, and, more importantly, the difference between season and spice. “I also learned that showing up early and staying late gains you favor,” Wallace said.

From Atlanta, Wallace’s tour de Georgia continued in Augusta, where, among other things, he was responsible for Mercedes’ catering during the Masters, no small feat. Eventually, he made his way to Hilton Head and Clayton Rollison’s Lucky Rooster, a busy tourist-driven spot where he learned “how to serve 300 people in four and a half hours.” A few culinary consulting jobs followed as Wallace learned the business side of restaurants, every stop on his journey providing valuable lessons that brought him to today, where he stands behind the bar in his own restaurant tucked tidily into a 900-square-foot space.

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