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Matt Shourds

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Culinary Stage

By Kristen Schott

Photography by Greg Powers

05.29.18

Executive chef Matt Shourds makes Hamilton history at The Kennedy Center.

No, The Kennedy Center’s recently appointed executive chef, Matt Shourds, hasn’t seen Hamilton. But he will when the lauded Broadway musical takes over the venue starting June 12 (tickets $99 to $625). That is, when the Virginia native isn’t cooking for 400 guests at The Roof Terrace Restaurant every night of the show, from 5 to 7:45pm. Then there’s the 600 extra folks in the cafe, 2,500 at the intermission bars and catering for donors or backstage.

“[It takes] meticulously planning ahead,” says Shourds, a father of six (the latest, a boy, arrived in May). Does he get nervous? “I’ve always been able to stay calm under pressure. It’s a good character trait to have working in kitchens.”

Agreed, particularly when your first day on the job was Honors (the 40th annual fete was held in December and he plied the palates of figures such as Lionel Richie) or, in your past life, you served Pope Francis (Shourds calls it a humbling experience).

But when it comes to Hamilton, he and his team have created a themed lineup—the Ten Dollar Menu, with one dessert (from pastry chef Kendra Stephens) and four cocktails, all paired with Shourds’ dishes. “The Valley Forge Fizz… [is delicious] with our scallop sashimi appetizer, with sour orange, shiso oil, apple, celery, pickled rhubarb, chili oil and dried wakame,” he says. “The zest, heat and acidity all balance each other out.”

What balances Shourds out? Dinner from his wife, for one: “When I get home, I like to eat whatever [she] makes. ... She always saves me a plate.” Or cooking on the weekends with his family: “[It’s] usually something fun that the kids can participate in, like make-your-own-pizzas.”

And as far as being an audience member with his wife at Hamilton: “We’re... looking forward to a nice date night without the kids.”