At Nashville’s 404 Kitchen, where chef Matt Bolus is manning the stove, the menu might offer rabbit with ricotta gnudi or dry-aged tri-tip with ramps. Bolus has relationships with the producers of both those meats, the Rabbit Man and Bear Creek Farms, among the many farmers and culinary craftspeople who supply his restaurant. Bolus lets the ingredients speak for themselves, but he also digs deep into how that can best be done. The result? 404 Kitchen was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant 2014.
The restaurant business is risky business, but Matt Bolus has a little background in calculated risks. He took his B.A. in business administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and for a time was a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch. But having worked as a line cook during college, he found the lure of the restaurant kitchen strong, and he knew what made him truly happy: cooking. So he headed to London, to Le Cordon Bleu, for formal culinary study, and, through stints as a line cook, butcher and fishmonger (at Charleston’s F.I.G., with chef Mike Lata), sous chef (The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island; Nashville’s Flyte), and executive chef-owner (of Red Sky Grill, on Seabrook Island, South Carolina), he garnered awards and critical praise.
Who would think that a renovated shipping container would make a great spot for a restaurant? But Bolus’s 404 Kitchen is sleekly modern and intimate, with only 56 seats, a special whiskey menu (this is whiskey country, after all), and nods to his southern roots (country ham with biscuits and red-eye gravy). For this Tennessee chef, it’s the kind of place that feels like home.