Among the chefs in Milan, Matias is certainly the most talked about, because he succeeded in transforming a typical and simple pub on the Navigli (meaning the menu not the environment) into an extremely enjoyable hangout for gourmets and curious gastronome. Not even the mellow Maida Mercuri, the owner (and sommelier) of Pont de Ferr, would have ever imagined such a transformation, but, in the end, it was definitely she who totally embraced and encouraged it at the beginning of the millennium.
Matias, Uruguayan, has been working in the kitchen since he was 14. His number one goal at that time was to work in a 5 star hotel in his own country. He didn’t succeed in doing so because he was too young, but his goal says a lot about his ambition. Four years later, after having learned the trade in an Italian restaurant in Montevideo, he left directly for Milan and its symbol, the Madonnina. His reason for leaving was his Uruguayan friend, chef Juan Lema, who was already working at Pont de Ferr, cooking its specialties like pasta and fagioli or stewed donkey, and wanted help. (Lema is now at the Trattoria Mirta).
It didn’t take long for Matias’ abounding creativity to bring about a change. He took charge of the kitchen and revolutionized recipes, their preparation and their presentation. His incessant curiosity about new techniques coming from Spain (referring to the Roca brothers’ fundamental courses in Girona) allowed him to challenge Milan. He prepared some of the most creative dishes in the city in a pub on a Naviglio (ndt. canal –one of Milan’s well-known attractions) that remained as simple as always. He had a minimal but well-equipped kitchen, an excellent choice of raw materials and loads of imagination. Dreamy nocturnal visions provided dishes that were listed on the daily menu under the title “Last night the chef dreamed”…
Now, even if Matias is no longer the up and coming chef because gastronomic guides became aware of him (the Michelin star was awarded to Pont de Ferr in 2012, to be repeated some time later), he remains the modest and introverted person as always. His determination is also confirmed by a nostalgic desire related to his Uruguayan origins. As Matias says, “I would like to open a cooking school in my home country. But I would also like a restaurant, this time by the sea, however.”
In the meantime, he left Maida Mercuri in the winter of 2014, after their having worked together for 14 years. He opened Contraste, an adventure with his long-time accomplices, Simon Press and Tomas Piras. It is among the most acclaimed restaurants (both critics and public) in the country today, to the extent that it received a double recognition at the end of 2017 – a new Michelin star and “the best Italian chef” in the Identità Golose Guide to Restaurants. He decided to repeat the adventure with the opening of Exit, urban gastronomy, a format that should give him satisfaction upon satisfaction.