Chef’s Dish: Matthew Lepisto of Town Hall Brewery
A brewery special of pork tostados, braised pork, queso fresco, creme fraiche, salsa rojo and lettuce.
The hectic life of the chef results in a range of personalities among the people who decide to take on the job. It’s always a surprise to find a chef so relaxed in that chaos, but it’s no surprise to find this chef is working at a brewery.
Meet Matthew Lepisto, chef at Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis. Lepisto began his life in kitchens at 17, frying chicken tenders at a local grocery store and deli. He attended Art Institutes International Minnesota and was hired on the line at The News Room in downtown Minneapolis after graduation. He was shortly promoted to sous chef, becoming the first cook in The News Room’s 12-year history to make that jump. Lepisto then joined Town Hall Brewery this past summer.
“It’s a crazy different pace on Nicollet Mall working in a high-volume restaurant,” Lepisto says. “It’s more relaxed here. I was making lots of good food, but good food that I don’t eat. Here I’m making food that I enjoy, which has more of an element of joy for me.”
The change in work atmosphere, with more community involvement and constant events happening at Town Hall, was welcomed, but the true pleasure for Lepisto really came when he entered the creative world of brewers.
Matthew Lepisto, pictured here (left) at the 2016 Taste of Elegance, is taking the food at Town Hall Brewery to the next level.
“I love the access to products that I get working at a brewery that I didn’t have access to before,” Lepisto says. Having the option to utilize all the flavors coming out of the brewery, Lepisto can make clever dishes from hop-infused honey-glazed chicken breast to sweet potato fries covered in a maple syrup glaze using Town Hall’s scotch ale. Lepisto even has surprising ingredients, such as spent coconut from the coconut milk stout available at his discretion.
“A decent amount of the food on the menu has Town Hall beer in it one way or another,” Lepisto notes.
Town Hall Brewery has its own large beer selection, one that’s constantly changing as the brewers create new seasonal tap offerings.
“Mike Hoops [Town Hall’s head brewer] is like a mad scientist,” Lepisto jokes. “They have a lab with dry erase boards, graphs and charts, always figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I’m very intrigued by it. I don’t think they understand how intrigued I am by it, but it inspires a different process of creativity when it comes to messing with flavors.”
This has allowed Lepisto to explore the symbiotic relationship between his food menu and Town Hall’s beer. His hope is to elevate the menu not in a way that would scare off regular clientele, but in the same way breweries challenged the common expectation of good beer.
“There are a million ways to elevate a hamburger. Ultimately Town Hall is known for beer,” Lepisto says. “When someone mentions our name I want them to say they got awesome beer and awesome food.”