Self-taught chef Ed Matthews is retiring from the hospitality trade next month, closing the modern American restaurant he established in Winchester, Virginia in 2002 after striking out in finding an immediate successor.
“I offered the restaurant to several chefs that I trust to do a good job with the customer base that we have built over 15 years, but nobody has had the financial wherewithal (or perhaps that insane streak) to take it on,” Matthews told Eater about his plan to step away from One Block West after dinner service on Saturday, August 5.
Matthews announced his imminent departure online, alerting supporters to his desire to sleep in a little later, spend more time with his family, and relocate to Oregon wine country.
Matthews’ cooking has most closely aligned with the seasons, providing him ample opportunity to utilize the freshest ingredients around. His creative vision helped birth everything from beer-battered squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta to a meaty cassoulet boasting bacon, duck confit, and smoked duck breast. Serving up gourmet fare has, however, come with consequences. Matthews said he had to beat back a kitchen fire — “Black smoke was descending from the ceiling and flames were about three feet high,” he recalled — caused by “every single table on a smoking busy Saturday night” ordering grilled duck breast. “We lost a lot of duck and stalled the line for about 30 minutes while we put out the fire and then recooked everything,” he said of the jarring experience.
As for the state of the local dining scene, Matthews didn’t mention anything about a “restaurant bubble” or fierce competition. If anything, he seemed pleased with how the entire community has evolved.
“Ten years ago, we couldn’t find microgreens. Today, some new person walks in the restaurant at least once a month trying to get my microgreen business,” he said.
The one thing he definitely won’t miss: recruiting reliable help. “Although we are very fortunate to have top-quality staff, it isn’t easy today finding people who actually care and want to work hard,” Matthews warned.
And while he’s shutting things down here, Matthews left the door open to exploring other culinary pursuits once he gets out west. “It is a bit premature yet, but I can see myself working for a winery in Oregon,” he said.