Phoenix-born Matt Carter had little interest in becoming a chef when he was growing up in the valley of the Sun. But after graduating from high school, he moved to California and took a job - just a job, not a calling – as a dishwasher at The Eggery breakfast restaurant in San Diego. Carter immediately took to the restaurant business and quickly advanced from dishwasher to prep cook to working on the line. After realizing that cooking could be a legitimate career option, he enrolled at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, graduating in 1989.
After culinary school, Carter cooked at Scottsdale's La Chaumiere, where he was immediately smitten with the artistry, demands and disciplines of French gastronomy. His experience there inspired him to pursue additional classical training in Paris, where he took courses at Le Cordon Blue, refined his skills at various restaurants and gained exposure to the world's finest cuisine.
Upon his return to Arizona in 1992, his Parisian experience helped him land a job as Chef de Partie at Christopher's, the highly acclaimed restaurant of chef/restaurateur Christopher Gross, where he stayed for over six years. Gross was a caring mentor to Carter, who considers him his greatest influence in the culinary world. "I truly learned to cook from Chris," he says, adding, "he taught me things you can't learn at any culinary school". Carter eventually ascended to the position of Chef de Cuisine at Christopher's, which at the time was the preeminent dining venue in the burgeoning Phoenix metropolitan area. Thanks to a chance meeting with super chef Thomas Keller in 1998, the young chef was given the opportunity to cook in an even more acclaimed kitchen, Keller's illustrious French Laundry, in Napa Valley. After working as Poissonnier for Keller, Carter returned to Scottsdale to take the job of Executive Chef at Michael's at the Citadel, widely recognized for its contemporary American cuisie with European influences. After two-and-a-half years at Michael's, Matt left to collaborate with current partner, Terry Ellisor, becoming the Executive Chef at Zinc Bistro in 2001. The 35-year-old chef and father of three believes that bistro cooking, which is based on simplicity of ingredients and presentation, need not be boring.
Accordingly, his menus at Zinc Bistro reflect an eye for innovation tempered with a deep respect for the underlying traditions of the French bistro. Although Carter cooks French classics for a living, he has a weakness for the tacos al pastor at Phoenix's Tacos Jalisco and admits, "I do have a thing for tacos, and jokes that someday I might just have to open a taco show to support my habit."