Dining With Miss Lil: The Two Faces of An Executive Chef

Chef Matthew Tivy and Miss Lil1By Lil Nickelson

I finally met Executive Chef/Owner Matthew Tivy this past summer after I had reviewed two French bistro establishments out of the three restaurants in his food business empire that he co owns or manages in Manhattan; Chez Lucienne in Harlem on Lenox Avenue near 125th Street and Café du Soleil on the Upper West Side near 104th Street and Broadway.  His third establishment is La Marina, a waterfront restaurant at 348 Dyckman Street in the Inwood section of Manhattan that you can dock boats at and come up in and dine.

Chef Tivy runs a very successful catering business out of three locations here in Manhattan as well:  Union Reception Hall which is a castle like space in upper Manhattan, and he has a preferred caterer designation at Riverside Church and the Manny Cantor Center.  The three halls that he group caters affairs in are as diverse as the populations, settings and the occasions.  Chef Udis Sarcone manages the catering culinary staff.

I’m fascinated how chefs of today aren’t looking to “franchise their cooking style/atmosphere” from one location to every location.  So I wanted to educate my readers about his group’s existence and ask how he assembles his teams: back of the house and front of the house.  I really wanted to his group on the spotlight as a potential employer for those readers that are interested in getting into the food business.

Chef Matthew Tivy’s interest in cooking and selling his food began during his boyhood days like around 10 years old of running a stand.  Classically he trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.; owning his own business stuck in his head.

Chef Robert Parchment runs Café du Soleil’s back of the house and during our chat work shifts at Café du Soleil were changing. Daytime crew members from the back and front of the house were bidding Chef Matthew Tivy so long with fist bumps and evening crew members were saying hello to him as they passed us by.  The camaraderie between Executive Chef/Owner and his staff is quite obvious.

He beamed how some of his line chefs started out as dishwashers, with no cooking experience.  They expressed an interest to learn and depending on which shift they worked they either cam in early or stayed later to assist and learn new skills.  Once they were functioning at a professional level they could transition into that role when an opening became available.

I found this willingness to teach and let people move up in his organization worthy of alerting my readers to.  Becoming a chef at one time has been something most Americans born chefs do after they worked in some other fields first.  They may have always had a passion for cooking, but it’s really only in the last 25 years that it’s become a first choice for high school students, due largely to programs like C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program) here in New York City.

Chef Matthew even spoke of trying to write a cookbook only to be bested by another chef releasing his book before his even was published.  The plain fact of the matter was Chef Tivy was too busy cooking to write about cooking.  That was still on his bucket list of things he wanted to do though.

I left our meeting with plenty of notes on what I wanted to share with my readers, yet somehow I ran into a mental block whenever I decided I will write up this piece today.  I was busy doing cooking demonstrations at two farmer’s markets located in the Bronx this summer on Fridays and Saturdays and my writing stalled.  I looked up and we were in October and I still had not written this article out so I picked a date.  Next Friday, October 9th I will write this story.  I got up that Friday, cut on my television to see what the day would bring weather wise.

The second face of Chef Tivy came to light to me as the news story about how the star chef, known for appearing on the Food Network Show “Chef du Jour” was arrested and being held without bail since the day before after he was accused of having sex with several minor boys and having child pornography on his phone.  This was after he was arrested and released back in May on $25,000 bail according to federal authorities.  The judge denied him bail this time because his actions continued even after his earlier arrest so he felt he was a risk of danger to the community rather than a flight risk for non-appearance.

He last federal court appearance was on Monday, November 9th.  I interviewed him in mid – July; two months after his first arrest and three months before the most recent arrest.  I won’t try to pass judgement on his guilt or innocence.  As one who is human I do hope that rehabilitation and redemption is available to him.

His attorney was quotes in the amNewYork news article saying that he has started two kinds of therapy, including a group that meets weekly; adding that Tivy certainly understands the gravity of the situation.  Being lock up has that effect on many people once their freedom is taken away.  I just try to remember that no one is all good or all bad.  I hope that his businesses are not negatively impacted because of the sheer number of people they employ and for the family members supported by those employees just because of his alleged shortcomings as a man.

Photo credit. Rudy Collins

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