Wine and Food Festival profile: Churchill’s Chef Zia Matoori

Thursday, June 18, 2009 | 7:50 p.m. CDT; updated 10:18 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 30, 2009
Chef Zia Matoori creates side garnishes from olives, rosemary and lemon in the kitchen at Churchill's restaurant Wednesday in Columbia. Matoori is one of several local chefs scheduled to participate in this year's Columbia Wine and Food Festival, set to begin Saturday and run through June 27.

Chef Zia Matoori of Churchill’s restaurantis expected to prepare a dinner June 25 as part of Columbia's Wine and Food Festival beginning this weekend.

For the festival, Matoori has developed five courses including prawns and sea scallops, halibut with medallions of lobster and a dessert using phyllo with pistachios, marscapone cheese, fresh figs and seasonal berries.

The meal incorporates Mediterranean and Italian elements. Matoori said he was conscious of cultural influences and what is in season, the latter of which led him to emphasize summer flavors.

“The soup is very summery. It has artichokes and watercress,” he said. “I tried to stay on the healthy side.”

Matoori said he thinks about every ingredient that goes into a dish and how it will taste when it’s combined with others. 

“I like the sea scallops because of their taste. They are very flavorful, and the simplicity of the dish is nice,” he said. “The halibut has a good texture and is very mild. The lobster stock harmonizes well with it.”

Matoori said he appreciates the freedom to be creative for the festival dinner.

“It’s a form of expression. Over years of doing this, you learn what is appealing. Every expression requires some sort of ingredient,” he said. “After all, food is an interesting bridge. It fills us with joy and happiness, especially when it’s shared with loved ones.”

He said he thinks that creating culinary arts is not much different than painting a picture or creating a poem. Expressing himself, he said, is the “ultimate reward.” 

“We should do something that we love, and we should look forward to what we do,” he said. “That’s why I love being a chef. It inspires me.”

Matoori, originally from Iran, began working in kitchens in the 1980s, and his interest flourished.

“I figured while I’m in this field, I better learn all the techniques. I worked for great chefs that cared about me,” he said. “After working in any field for a decade, you get inspired by the people around you.”

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