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After getting his start in the restaurant industry at age 13 as a busboy, Matt Dean Pettit found that his team was having much more fun in the back-of-house in the kitchen. Throughout high school and college, he worked his way up the line from a dishwasher to a prep cook. Eventually, Pettit travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he lived a double life as a chef and rugby player. Soon after, he took an eight-year kitchen break to learn the business side of the consumer packaged goods industry, working alongside various alcohol and beverage package products.
Eventually, Pettit called it quits and returned to his kitchen calling by opening his first food truck, Rock Lobster. Three more physical restaurants, multiple television appearances and numerous best-selling cookbooks later, Pettit has now launched his latest endeavour, Coast by MDP.
A take on Rock Lobster, but offered as a solution for restaurants, Coast by MDP offers affordable, sustainable seafood selections plus training and product-filled partnerships with various kitchens.
We caught up with Matt to learn more about the advantages of restaurant solutions, how restaurateurs can use these solutions and Pettit’s best advice.
What would be the benefits for chefs and restaurateurs to take advantage of a value-add restaurant solution like Coast by MDP?
The major reason someone should take on a value-add restaurant solution like Coast is to bring in top-line revenue. You're using and leveraging your current staff while maximizing your existing overhead such as your rent, lease or utilities — everything you're already paying to run your business. You can use it with delivery apps, pop-up format, special occasions or on an ongoing basis à la carte. You want brands like Coast to come in and bring you sales. It’s then our job to muse a chef to continue to build the brand across Canada, find great kitchen partners, help everyone succeed, all while serving sustainable, affordable seafood.
What else should be considered when looking at value-add restaurant solutions?
The first thing to consider when signing on a restaurant solution brand is identifying that they have a strong operation setup. Also, ensure the execution of the product, the training and the leverage of the assets (marketing, social media) are strong. We live in a digital world now so everything has to be promoted.
At Coast, we pride ourselves on having a really strong digital game and social media strategy that's fun. If you put your heart out there and create and share fun content, people will attach to it. It should also be a two-way conversation on social media.
How would you describe the flavours of Coast by MDP?
The flavours of Coast are clean, fresh, simple and approachable; I think that's how seafood should be. You never want to mask it too much, depending on the seafood. If you're eating fresh lobster, minimal is best and you can add some great seasoned butter or dip to eat and enjoy, if need be. If you have crispy shrimp, we love to coat our shrimp in Kentucky BBQ sauce. I just think it depends on the item, the texture and if you want to work with the best ingredients possible in your kitchen.
Describe your latest feature dish, Kentucky Bourbon Shrimp Sandwich, a recipe that is being made available to chefs coast to coast.
My Kentucky Bourbon Shrimp Sandwich is a take on a Nashville hot chicken Coast-style. It is comprised of beautiful, crunchy, sustainable OceanWise shrimp that is seasoned, battered and fried. We've then got the Cattlemen's® Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Sauce that I love. It has got the right amount of sweetness and a little bit of a kick on the back-end from the bourbon. We combine that with our Mango Chipotle Crunchy Slaw, which has zest, freshness and a lovely seasoning to it. It's the zip that you're wanting to bring off that sauciness so that the balance is amazing. Put it all right into a big ol' Martin's Potato Roll Bun and you've got a perfect sandwich right there.
Where do you hope to take Coast from here?
Coast is going to be a national, and hopefully international, seafood brand. It’ll be a brand we can continue to partner with existing restaurants or look to have as part of stand-alone, grab-and-go concepts as well. As long as we're working with the best suppliers, purveyors and sustainable seafood products, we'll never deviate from that plan.
Are there any other MDP projects we could know about?
As of April 2021, we have launched PowerPlant Superfoods, which takes functional mushrooms and adaptogens — a large food trend this year — and puts them into everyday foods. We've started with four great coffees: two chocolate coffees and two lion's mane coffees. We're really excited to get into a functional lineup of mushrooms and adaptogens into kombucha, starting this spring.
What additional advice would you give aspiring restaurateurs looking to launch their own foodservice concepts or offerings in the coming months?
This past year has taught all of us to take chances, take risks and not be afraid. You don't know what tomorrow will bring, so if you really want to make your grandmother's favourite cupcakes and put them in the market, get on Shopify, get on SquareSpace, build a website, teach yourself how to do it and start selling. Have fun with it, build it out, get it into your network, ask your friends to buy and share it. That's the best advice I can give whether you're an entrepreneur, chef, cook or dishwasher.
Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Shrimp Sandwich
2021 Edition of Coast to Coast
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