San Diego native Matt Richman wears both chef and owner hats at his restaurant, Table 926, in Pacific Beach, open since December.
A graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Richman has worked in kitchens all over the country, including local restaurants, Pacifica Del Mar, My Place Bistro in La Jolla and Illume Bistro in Little Italy.
Q: How and when did you know you wanted to be a chef?
A: I started cooking in earnest for myself when I was around 22, and discovered I really enjoyed it. The progression toward becoming a chef took place naturally after that.
Q: This is your first business; what drove you to open your own restaurant?
A: I opened my own restaurant because I wanted to be able to make the final decisions and max out on my creativity. I wanted to be able to share that creativity with others because via making what I want, and not have to get someone else's permission first.
Q: As you near Table 926's first anniversary, what business lessons have you learned in your first year as a business owner?
A: I've learned to never get too excited or ahead of myself when the business is up and reviews are positive. Oppositely, I’ve also learned that you can’t let yourself get down if the business isn’t exactly where you want it to be or you get a less-than-perfect review. It’s going to happen to everybody, especially in the restaurant business. All you can do is your best, and keep learning.
Q: You've worked as a chef in several cities around the country; what is your impression of San Diego’s culinary scene?
A: It seems like it's getting better every year. The locals are becoming more educated about food, where it comes from, and what the trends are, and that drives us to do the same. It also seems like diners are becoming more adventurous; that’s a good thing.
Q: With so many distinct neighborhoods in San Diego, what made you decide to open in north Pacific Beach?
A: I felt our concept was a viable one for the area. Our price point, food quality and interior style could be successful in this market, and it seemed that the locals were excited to have this kind of restaurant in their community.
Q: What do you feel are the most challenging parts of being in the restaurant industry?
A: The slowly recovering economy has been a challenge. You can be the best restaurant in town and people will still be hesitant to spend the amount of money they were spending five or six years ago.
Q: What's next for Table 926?
A: From an internal perspective, I hope to continue improving upon the Table 926 experience. Even when I get positive feedback, I'm still thinking, "How can I make this even better?" I think a few changes coming up in the fairly near future will be added outdoor patio seating and, with any luck, a weekend brunch. San Diego is the perfect city for weekend brunch, and I’d like to be part of that.
Q: What's your favorite dish off of Table 926’s menu?
A: My favorite dish is also the guests' favorite: pork cheeks in a guajillo-tamarind glaze, served over braised greens and polenta. This dish has been here since the beginning, and it’s here to stay.
Q: What are your favorite restaurants in San Diego?
A: Farm House in University Heights is a great spot, and so are Shino Sushi + Kappo and La Villa in Little Italy.
Q: What's your favorite dish to make at home?
A: I like making a grilled steak with chimichurri. It's simple to make, and what chef doesn’t like a good steak?
Follow Table 926 on Twitter @table926
Working at the hotel since 2008, Volk's new responsibilities include reservation and room assignment activities, researching and solving guests requests, supervising the front desk staff of ten and training new employees.