Raised in Encinitas, Matt Orlando embarked on a culinary career is his teens, working at a local Chart House and eventually at Fairbanks Ranch County Club. After Orlando left San Diego, he worked his way though several famed kitchens, including New York's Le Bernardin and Per Se and The Fat Duck in London before landing at the fabled Noma in Copenhagen, rising to head chef before leaving to open his own highly-regarded restaurant, Amass, in the Danish capital.
Galaxy Taco was packed last night with his friends, family and fans, including several tables of former Chart House co-workers, for Orlando's Taco Tuesday guest chef stint. It was the first public food event Orlando has done in San Diego in a decade, though not his first turn at tacos; he's done some collabs with Rosio Sanchez, Noma's former pastry chef who opened a taco stand in Copenhagen last summer. With support from the Galaxy Taco team, including executive chef Trey Foshee and chef de cuisine Christine Rivera, Orlando put out three exemplary tacos — rock cod with burnt wood, cabbage and salsa fresca, black pepper pork belly with grilled chilies, ancho crema and cilantro and a smoked potato taco with cottage, cooked egg yolk emulsion and pickled jalapeños — and chatted with Eater about his yearly visits to San Diego.
The chef loves Mexican food, and travels to Ensenada if he has time but never misses a carne asada burrito fix at La Posta in Hillcrest. When asked for his take on San Diego's food scene, Orlando said the city doesn't lack for great ingredients or the talent to transform them, but that local eaters are perhaps more focused on deals than true dining. His Amass will soon be 100% organically certified, and he questioned San Diego's general willingness to pay for the real cost of good product.
Orlando said there's no present or future plan to open a restaurant of his own in San Diego, but remarked that he sees a lot of missed opportunity with local brewpubs that aren't serving food that compares in quality to the beer. A fan of The Lost Abbey and Toolbox Brewing, Orlando is a serious beer devotee, and regularly brings home European bottles to share with his local buddies.