Matt Brandsey, executive chef at El Gaucho in Seattle for seven years, can be found in the kitchen at this iconic Seattle restaurant or serving meals of comfort food to Seattle’s hurting and homeless. Brandsey’s smile and genuine compassion for people is felt by customers, coworkers and some of the community’s most fragile individuals as he shares his knowledge of and passion for cooking with all.
Brandsey, who knew he wanted to be a chef from a relatively young age, thoroughly enjoys his role at El Gaucho and considers it a privilege that, in that role, he is able to participate in preparing and serving monthly meals at the Union Gospel Mission, a non-profit that Chad MacKay, owner of El Gaucho, is passionate about.
In addition to his work at the Mission, Brandsey also helps manage the restaurant’s commitment to the environment through its robust recycling program. Brandsey has played an integral role in ensuring that, when it comes to recycling food scraps from the restaurant, nothing goes to waste. He estimates that food waste represents at least 40-50% of the restaurant’s overall waste stream. Brandsey says that, for most workers, they are simply unclear on what’s compostable and what is not and so training of all new employees has been a critical component to the restaurant’s recycling program.
Brandsey says he likes knowing that the food scraps from the kitchen at El Gaucho are recycled into healthy, nutrient-rich soil that stays local. In fact, Brandsey decided to close the loop on recycling and, with his daughter, started the Tallulah Nursery at his residence in Tacoma.
After his daughter learned an important financial lesson, at age six, about sales through her two-day lemonade stand that was wildly successful on day one and dormant on day two, Tallulah asked her dad to help her come up with a plan. She wanted to start a business that would be successful year round. She loves planting and flowers and so Brandsey suggested a nursery.
Today, the Tallulah Nursery provides flowers for top restaurants in Seattle and Tacoma, in addition to hotels, weddings and special events. The proceeds from the nursery are going towards Tallulah’s college fund.
Brandsey is honored to work for a restaurant with such firm roots in downtown Seattle that is also firmly committed to doing the right thing for the community it serves.