When I heard Matt Hranek — acclaimed photographer, William Brown Project blogger, Barbour-jacketed man-about-town — got his own TV show, my first thought was OK, so someone was smart enough to make that official. Because as long as I’ve known Matt (and his wife Yolanda), the guy has been a one man show, regaling us with tales of what he’s seen and tasted in his travels across the country on assignment. Just following him on instagram is enough to inspire (and exhaust) me — on any given day you’ll find him catching salmon in Alaska, scoring vintage military jackets at an upstate flea market, foraging chanterelles in Oregon, or concoting a mad-scientist rabbit rillette at home for Yolanda and their daughter, Clara. (Please watch the Alternate Route trailer to get a taste for what I’m talking about.) Matt stopped moving long enough to answer this month’s edition of 21 Questions. Thanks Matt!
21 Questions for Matthew Hranek
Host of Alternate Route, premiering November 20, 10:30 ET, on the Esquire Network.
My life in three bullet points…Live. Laugh. Love. Just kidding. More like Drink. Eat. Sleep.
The kitchen I grew up eating in was…one of many first-generation immigrants — aunts and uncles and grandparents. My Mother’s Family is from Italy (Puglia) My father’s family is Czech. There were gallons of red sauce and meatballs were eaten with the Italians in a kitchen that always smelled of garlic. Then, with the Slovaks, there were piles of Perogies and Kielbasa, in a kitchen that always smelled of pan fried onions, butter, and dill.
When I was a child I wanted to be….a vet. But after one summer internship at the local vets office watching castration after castration and being bitten by way to many drugged up cats, I thought photography might be a better choice. It was.
If I was stuck on a desert island, the food I’d have with me is…the smoked Gaspe, white fish salad and French trout caviar from Russ & Daughters.
A great American is…Ben Franklin. He wanted the national bird to be the wild turkey. Enough said.
When I’m in the South I always…drink the cheapest canned beer (or draft) of the region, buy boiled peanuts from the side of the road and eat everything fried.
I never leave home for a trip without...a cooler. A Coleman cooler or a Trader Joe soft cooler bag is always in the back of our Rover. You never know when you will need to keep something fresh (greens on a hot day or cheese) or cold ( a bottle of wine or beer).
Secret weapon in the kitchen is… a sharp knife, good salt, and one nonstick pan
Turning point in my life was…meeting my wife Yolanda. (This is no bullshit.) She is my best friend, advisor, confidant, editor, navigator, partner, and critic. And a beauty.
I stay healthy by running a few miles almost everyday. I have also in my middle age cut out crappy no-good bread and bagels, and try to not polish off a whole six-pack and bag of chips in one sitting.
Favorite magazine: I read magazines the most when I am flying. The mags in my bag as I board the plane are most often Vanity Fair, The Economist (to look smart), Esquire, GQ, Field and Stream, and some food mag that I dig the monthly feature in like Bon App or Saveur.
Chefs doing something exciting right now… are the guys who are doing the Pubbelly restaurants in Miami (Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, Pub steak, Barcenoleta). Honest, clever, and great flavors touching on all the stuff and ethnicity I love to eat.
Without…my family, I’m…nothing.
You wouldn’t know it but I… have mad laundry skills! I can get pretty much get any stain out of any fabric and my whites are crazy white. Pretty handy with an iron and steamer too. Italian mother. Duh.
My weekend uniform….Denim, Oxford, wool of some form in the cold weather, wax cotton, loafers, wingtips, the occasional Vans.
My workday uniform…see above plus blazer and knit tie.
I drive a…Land Rover LR4, unapologetically. On the weekends a 1987 Porsche 911 Targa/Carrera. Again, unapologetically.
I wish I drove a...1962 Land Rover defender.
Gluten-free eating…is off when in Italy!
A cookbook that changed me is… Jacques Pepin La Technique. That book is perfectly photographed in steps. JP teaches you to truss, filet and even style trout with fake olive eyeballs..
A cup of coffee is…essential many times a day and, may I say, should be served without snarky attitude and pretense. (No waistcoat, tats, or waxed stash required.)
When entertaining I make… steak for the boss; grilled sausage for the neighbor; pasta for the kids; (also,the kids eat what we eat) and roast veg for the vegetarian.
Best restaurant meal I’ve had in the past 12 months is…at Prime Meats in Brooklyn. It’s my cafeteria and the food, drink and service never fail me. I love everything about this place including it’s owners.
What I make my family when I’m on the clock.…Roast chicken and Sausage with potatoes and shallots. It’s a one-pot dish that’s a riff on something my mother always made. Super satisfying and delicious.
Matt Hranek’s Roast Chicken with Sausage
In your favorite baking dish or cast iron skillet add:
- Chicken (I use legs)
- Sausage ( I use sweet and spicy Italian)
- Shallots (but you can add just about any onion, whole heads of garlic, potato or root veg, or fennel)
- Big glugs of olive oil to coat everything
- Lots of good salt and pepper
Then I chuck in any fresh herbs from the garden, or in the winter, I use dried Herbes de Provence and set oven to 375° for about an hour.
It is really hard to mess this up. Serve with salad tossed in a mustardy vinaigrette. Drink: I like rose, sauv blanc, a non oaked chard, or good old pinot grigio with this.