WESTPORT, Conn. — Restauranteur Matt Storch and super foodie Stephanie Webster talked food and restaurants for the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston recently — and, not surprisingly, concluded that Westport is a great restaurant town.
Storch is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, and, for the past 17 years, owner of Match, in South Norwalk. Webster, also a Westporter, is Editor in Chief of the CTBites.com website, one dedicated to offering curated food and restaurant reviews. If you enjoy restaurants, food events, wine tastings and the like, subscribe.
Storch is the son of a high-end travel agent and so “went to pretty impressive places during my childhood, (places) that planted a bug for hospitality.”
He owns three restaurants — Match, The Chelsea in Fairfield and Nom Eez, a small Vietnamese eatery in Bridgeport. He will soon open another, a “grab-and-go” spot in the northbound Westport train station, for commuters who want to bring home something from Match or Nom Eez, along with unique doughnuts from Donut Crazy.
Webster grew up in Manhattan, moved to Seattle where she learned an innovative approach to food criticism. She came back East, moved to Westport, and seven years ago founded her site.
“CTBites always stays positive… If we write about it, we recommend it.”
Both agreed social media is replacing print media. He uses on Instagram and Facebook to market his restaurants. “And I copy and post Steph’s write-ups,” he said. On the other side, a poor review can destroy a restaurant. And with the Internet, it stays forever.
Storch strives to create a “great experience … focusing on what’s different, fresh and sourced locally.” His meats are from Fleischer’s Craft Butchery in Saugatuck, and his fresh fruits and vegetables are from the Westport Farmers Market.
The great experience begins with having a manager greet customers, create a strong first impression and make customers feel comfortable. Then it is ambience, then food, then service.
That said, he disappointed much of his Mad Men era executive audience. “The days of dining are over,” Gone are the elegant five-star French palaces, long quiet meals, and even desserts in many places, replaced by a new generation of “hip, loud, dark restaurants.”
The change is most notable on Saturday evenings. “We’ve endured the week. Saturday is the night to make money.” If a party insists on making a long evening of it, he will buy a round of drinks at the bar.
And both agreed that the area’s “hottest food town has to be Westport,” with Norwalk strong. And Storch added, “Fairfield is getting hot."