“We love the DIY spirit,” says Matt Jennings in a blog post from Farmstead, the Providence, Rhode Island, restaurant he owned from 2003 to 2014 with his wife, pastry chef Kate Jennings. For Matt, twice nominated for a James Beard award for Best Chef Northeast, that means creating everything from pickles and preserves to baked goods (Kate’s biscuits are legend), cheese, and charcuterie—all for sale in the restaurant’s shop. He’s a chef who’s never met a meat he didn’t want to cook with, be it Rhode Island–pastured beef or Berkshire pork belly. He prides himself for using the whole animal, from heart to bone marrow. Three-time winner of the competition Cochon 555, he is also known as the Prince of Pork.
Jennings is a Boston boy, who starting cooking as a teenager on Nantucket. After graduating from the New England Culinary Institute, he cooked at Boston restaurants Salamander and Truc, then took a break from the stove and traveled the world as a cheesemonger for Boston’s Formaggio Kitchen (a lucky gig, as that’s also where he met Kate). So with his soon-to-open Boston restaurant Townsman, it’s a homecoming for the couple, who closed Farmstead this summer.
Returning to the East Coast, after Kate finished her pastry program at the CIA Greystone campus, in the Napa Valley, the couple chose Providence as their home, opening their cheese and charcuterie shop first, followed by the restaurant. Farmstead’s emphasis on modern regional cuisine, with sustainably sourced ingredients, makes it a four-season favorite among locals and out-of-towners alike.
The wildly tattooed tattooed Jennings loves bringing people together, whether at Farmstead’s Sunday family-style suppers or in his Northern Alliance Dinners, in which he’s uniting ten American and Canadian chefs to produce two dinners, with the proceeds going to benefit the American Farmland Trust. Says Jennings, “It’s rooted in supporting the local community and putting the money back in the hands of the people who work so hard to get food on our customers’ tables.”