Favorite

A Q&A with Chef Matt Cooper of Bentonville's The Preacher's Son 

On being an actual preacher's son, his gluten-free menu and more.

click to enlarge MATT COOPER
  • MATT COOPER

The Bentonville restaurant scene has blossomed far beyond plate lunches and chicken joints in recent years, with a host of new fine-dining options carried along by the Walmart-related bump in incomes. Already earning rave reviews — and a win for Best New Restaurant in this year's Readers Choice Awards — is The Preacher's Son, which opened in December at 201 N.E. A St. in Bentonville. Situated in the airy confines of a renovated former church built in 1904, The Preacher's Son is one of several restaurant concepts opened or in the works in the area by RopeSwing Hospitality Group, a company dedicated to localproduce, farm-to-table establishments, including the highly rated Pressroom and the Undercroft Bar (located in the basement of The Preacher's Son), and the 12,000-square-foot Record event center.

The literal preacher's son behind The Preacher's Son is executive chef Matt Cooper. A veteran of the Little Rock restaurant scene, including serving as the original executive chef of Cache, Cooper decamped to Northwest Arkansas a few years back to work on restaurant concepts with RopeSwing. Several years in the making, The Preacher's Son appears to be living up to the hype, featuring a highly seasonal menu that leans heavily on local meats and produce, buttressed by fresh seafood flown in from suppliers in the Pacific Northwest, where Cooper once worked. To see a full menu, visit thepreachersson.com.

Tell me about your background and how you got into the restaurant business.

I'm a native of Northwest Arkansas, but I grew up everywhere and have lived everywhere. I got my classical training in Portland, Ore. Cooked in Little Rock for years and years. I was the previous executive chef of Lulav, executive sous chef of the Chenal Country Club, executive chef and general manager at Cache restaurant — I opened that restaurant. I was heavily involved in the Little Rock community, then moved up to Bentonville to start this project. It's American cuisine focused on sustainability and the local movement. The menu happens to be gluten-free because I'm celiac.

I had heard about you having celiac disease [an autoimmune disorder that leaves sufferers unable to eat wheat, rye and barley]. How has that shaped your cooking?

It hasn't really changed anything. It just means I have to source better ingredients from better companies.

The restaurant is in an old church?

That's right. It's a church that was built in 1904.

click to enlarge A KIND OF COMMUNION: A former altar offers bar seating at The Preacher's Son,  where chef Matt Cooper says grace over local meats and produce.
  • A KIND OF COMMUNION: A former altar offers bar seating at The Preacher's Son, where chef Matt Cooper says grace over local meats and produce.

Is there a special resonance to you in having a restaurant located in a former church?

My father and grandfather were Methodist minsters in this state for collectively 100 years, so to be in a church, it's fairly comfortable.

In creating the menu for The Preacher's Son, did you have a general philosophy that you hoped to carry with your food?

We just wanted to source the most sustainable ingredients and the most local ingredients we can. We work with local farmers for our produce. Because we're heavily vegetable- and fish-driven here, I source a lot of the seafood from the Pacific Northwest, where I'm also from, because I have those relationships with the fish vendors from there.

You have a Spring Solstice Dinner coming up at 6 p.m. March 20. Can you tell me about that?

It's a wine dinner with Raptor Ridge Winery. The menu is still coming, because we're hyper-seasonal, so we're going to see what's available that week. Then we'll develop the menu based on that. It's a five-course tasting, $125 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. We're going to have a fun little dinner with me and chef Michael Robertshaw from the Pressroom. He's my partner in the company.

You said hyper-seasonal. I think I get it, but what does it mean to you?

I don't know if we're absolutely hyper-seasonal, but spring's coming, so different things are popping up each week. Something might be available next week that's not available right now, like spring garlic, wild watercress, wild fennel, things that we couldn't have gotten last week that we could get this week.

The Bentonville restaurant scene has kind of exploded in the past few years. Do you feel The Preacher's Son fits in with the general vibe of Bentonville or are you trying to do something different from everyone else?

I think all the places that are popping up in Bentonville are very complementary to each other. I think everyone is doing something a little bit different so that we don't compete. That's what I love about the vision of Bentonville.


Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Speaking of Matt Cooper, The Preacher's Son

  • A look inside Cache, opening Jan. 7th

    December 26, 2013
    Look for Cache to open officially on January 7th for both dinner and lunch. If the food can deliver a performance as impressive as the restaurant surrounding it, Little Rock is surely in for a spectacular downtown dining experience. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by David Koon

  • Tough mothers, demanding action

    Interest in the gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action has exploded since the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Florida. Leaders here say they're in the battle for 'gun sense' until the job is done.
    • Apr 5, 2018
  • The Griffin

    El Dorado's new restaurant showplace is worth the drive.
    • Mar 15, 2018
  • Arkansas's medical marijuana growers come to light

    Four counties, five companies, lots of jobs in the cannabis business.
    • Mar 8, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Visionary Arkansans 2016

    They make an impact.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • The 91st Arkansas General Assembly: It's going to be a beast

    Some legislation to look for, and how to speak your mind.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Resist, Arkansas!

    Surveying the state's grass roots resistance to Donald Trump and the Republicans who back him.
    • Mar 9, 2017

Latest in Cover Stories

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Gay Walmart group PRIDE comes out

    • yangn tp size en gzel Yangn tp dolumu bulabileceiniz yer yangn da sadece ofgd de…

    • on April 24, 2018
  • Re: Gay Walmart group PRIDE comes out

    • yangn sndrme tp nereden alacanz nasl bulacanz iin ok faydal bir site ziyaret edin! https://www.yanginsondurmeistanbul.com…

    • on April 24, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation