Chef Matt Gallaher saw the power of home cookin’ firsthand while traveling the globe as personal chef to the rock band Kings of Leon. “When you’re away from home for months at a time, people just want to sit down to familiar comfort food,” Gallaher says. The Knoxville native believes meals can be even more meaningful when they are made with homegrown ingredients.
“I like being connected to the food I’m serving,” says Gallaher, who returned to his Tennessee roots to serve as personal chef to Gov. Bill Haslam and his family at the Tennessee Governor’s Mansion. These days, the chef happily indulges his passion for farm-to-table cooking – a passion shared by Tennessee’s first family.
“The governor is really supportive of buying locally, and that’s something near and dear to my heart,” Gallaher says.
To promote the products produced in the state, the Haslams are strong supporters of the Pick Tennessee Products campaign. In fact, the Tennessee Governor’s office has been a proud supporter of the program for 25 years. Gallaher says he frequents the program’s website when planning meals.
According to his chef, the health-conscious governor “loves lamb and chicken, and is open to trying new things.”
Among Gallaher’s go-to ingredients is the intensely smoky bacon that has made Allan Benton from Madisonville-based Benton’s Country Hams a celebrity in the culinary world.
To satisfy the gubernatorial sweet tooth, Gallaher turns to the Nashville-based bean-to-bar chocolate produced by Olive & Sinclair.
And for a cheese to please any palate, who needs Wisconsin?
“Some great Tennessee cheeses are gaining in popularity, says Gallaher, who notes Blackberry Farm’s sheep’s milk cheeses, goat cheese from Noble Springs Dairy and Sequatchie Cove Farm’s cow’s milk creations.
“People are really starting to care where their food comes from. Buying locally is a fairly easy thing you can do to make a difference economically and culturally,” Gallaher says. “I’m really glad to be a piece of that puzzle.”