The Truth About Matt Brown From Chopped: Alton's Maniacal Baskets

The pressure that the coronavirus pandemic has placed upon the restaurant industry has not spared The Golden Bear, the Sacramento bar and fusion restaurant where Matt Brown works as the head chef. "[Josh Milholm, the co-owner of The Golden Bear] and I end up working 7 days a week, 14–15 hours a day," Brown told Rahul Lal in a photo essay published on Medium in March 2021. This is almost double the 8-10 hours they would work in pre-pandemic times, in part due to picking up the duties of the workers they had to lay off when the lockdowns hit.

However, while no food establishment had an easy time last year, The Golden Bear had benefited from being featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" not once, but twice. The episodes in question were "West Coast Cookin'" and "From Pork to Tofu" (via Food Network). From there, it received praise from Culture Trip as one of the best brunch spots in Midtown Sacramento in both 2015 and 2016. "The main draw for me is the food by Chef Matt Brown," one reviewer explained on Yelp. Even with the help of being a firmly established culinary destination, keeping The Golden Bear going has still pushed Matt Brown, like the rest of his colleagues, to the limits of every aspect of being a chef. 

Matt Brown experiments while staying true to his roots

The Golden Bear focuses on being a fusion restaurant, which seems to reflect more Matt Brown's own culinary leanings than any commercial calculation. When The Jungle Bird, a Tiki bar and restaurant started up in Sacramento in 2016, he was asked to make the menu.

"He was able to take Polynesian food and know that it means anything from Hawaii to Papua New Guinea," Tyler Williams, one of the co-owners of The Jungle Bird, told SubMerge. "There are just a ton of different styles and flavors that he utilized." Similarly, when Brown became the 2020 champion of BaconFest, it was due, as Farm to Table Talk describes, to a pork dim sum featuring a pork and mushroom shumai and a pork bao.

In addition to the fusion nature of Brown's dishes, they all focus around a type of food that could be described as filling or homey, the exact type of food one wants at a bar. Talking to the Sacramento News & Review, Brown recalls such a basis forming when he was 8 and he and his father picked apples on a crisp fall day. They returned home where his mother had prepared a warm potato leek soup. "That all built a ground layer of what I'm into," he explains.

Matt Brown will take on a very different kind of culinary challenge when he competes on "Chopped: Alton's Maniacal Baskets," starting June 22 on Food Network.