On the Line: Matt Renstrom of Urban Plates

Urban Plates is a concept that Orange County can’t seem to get enough of. With locations in Brea, two in Irvine, and the newest OC branch in Aliso Viejo, it was about time for me to get acquainted with the back of the house. Chef Matt is no stranger to successful corporate brands.

How does Urban Plates differ from similar concepts?
Urban Plates is an elevated fast casual concept offering a chef-driven menu to reflect the seasons. We provide wholesome and fresh meals that are made with the highest quality ingredients on premise daily.

Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
The ability to anticipate the needs of the restaurant independently.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Taste your food often— before and after adding each ingredient, so you can see how the flavor profile develops with each ingredient.

Name an indispensable tool in the kitchen that isn’t a knife.
Plastic wrap! It’s like the duct tape of the kitchen. You can use it to keep food airtight, or to hold down foil over a hotel pan by using it as a rope.

Where was your most recent meal?
Went to Stonehill Tavern for my birthday recently; I had the braised veal cheeks over truffle cavatelli pasta.

What prompted the brand to open a second Urban Plates in Irvine, as opposed to an adjacent city?
We saw the potential to bring the UP experience to even more Orange County residents. Our brand mission is to give quality and nourishing food to as many people as possible. Just so happens Irvine loves us as much as we love them.

What is your favorite seasonal dish?
My favorite seasonal dish that I hope makes a comeback is the Miso Mushrooms with sweet potatoes and caramelized onions.

Your best recent food find:
Shabu shabu! Not so recent— maybe a year. SWSH in Irvine is my favorite; they have the best sesame sauce. My wife also does it at home. We have a setup and that special pot with the divider in the middle to have two different broths.

How did your time working for Fleming’s Steakhouse influence the way you run your kitchen?
I did my culinary “growing up” in Fleming’s kitchens, and they really taught me a lot. One of the things I really took to heart is to be constantly thirsty for knowledge and learning something new often, and then turning around and teaching/imparting that newfound knowledge to others.

Where did you grow up, and what brought you to Orange County?
I grew up in North East Cobb County, Georgia. My then fiancee and I moved to Orange County in 2014 to pursue a change in scenery.

Favorite meal growing up:
My Mom’s potato noodles— a Polish dish!

What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Picking pumpkins with my grandmother in our backyard in Ohio.

Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food?
Growing succulent gardens and creating succulent arrangements.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’m a big college football fan.

Last thing you looked up online:
Tour dates for My Morning Jacket.

Favorite places to eat:
Los Sanchez in Garden Grove and ARC in Costa Mesa.

Hardest lesson you’ve learned:
The hardest lesson I’ve learned was how to be an approachable leader while conveying authority. A leader has to be able to establish standards, and still be somebody the staff wants to come to and ask for help.

What would you like to try doing if you weren’t in this business?
Sports radio talk show host.

Learn more about Urban Plates at www.urbanplates.com.

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