Food & Drink

Why Matt Masera jumped from Saddle Rock to Hook & Ladder

Over the summer, chef Matt Masera helped open the restaurant Saddle Rock and generated plenty of buzz for creating new and artistic takes on dishes with ties to the Gold Rush days.

But behind the scenes, he had creative differences with the ownership, including Chris Jarosz, best known for Broderick, whose second Broderick location is directly across L Street.

On Wednesday, Masera, 31, who is best known as the opening executive chef at acclaimed vegetarian restaurant Mother, announced he was leaving Saddle Rock and taking over as executive chef at Hook & Ladder.

It’s a jump across the midtown grid that has inspired a new round of buzz. What went awry at Saddle Rock? What new touches will he bring to the menu at Hook & Ladder?

“Basically, we had some professional differences with regards to what I’m seeking to do and what they wanted the restaurant to be, which is fine,” Masera said. “I think Chris (Jarosz) is a great guy and I want the best for Saddle Rock. I’m just not certain I’m the chef that Saddle Rock needs.”

Jarosz gave the same explanation for Masera’s departure.

“Matt is a really great creative guy. It really just comes down to a difference of opinion,” he said. “Matt is looking to make his name in the chef world with a certain type of creative direction. For me, I just want to deliver what I think the people want now – more to the masses than to the few. His perception of steak and potatoes and my perception of steak and potatoes is very different.”

Jarosz added: “He has been nothing but a stand-up classy guy. (Wednesday, Nov. 16) is his last night and he’s there making sure he leaves on a very positive note.”

Beginning Sunday, Nov. 20, Masera will replace the recently departed Brian Mizner, who opened Hook & Ladder four years ago, and has presided over one of the annual Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge dinners.

“I’m excited to take the baton and run with it,” said Masera, who once worked with Mizner at Masque Ristorante, the short-lived fine dining spot in El Dorado Hills.

Hook & Ladder co-owner Kimio Bazett described the split with Mizner as “amicable” and said he wishes him well in his next endeavor. Mizner hasn’t announced his next move yet.

Bazett said there was no need for Masera to go through the standard cooking tryout, given his credentials.

“Matt is one of the most inspired and inspiring chefs I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to. The way he talks about food paints a picture and makes you hungry. The guy truly loves what he does and he lives and breathes it,” Bazett said. “He’s got his finger on the pulse of Sacramento and beyond. He’s going to put his stamp on things.

“I believe he’s one of the best chefs in town, if not the region.”

Masera said he’s in no hurry to overhaul the menu. Instead, he hopes to put his personal stamp on the staff culture.

“I want people to enjoy coming to work and I want the servers to be excited about the food that they’re serving,” he said.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

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