Matthew Tivy says he is a natural-born foodie.
“I always loved to eat,” said Tivy, 47, a chef and the owner of the Cafe du Soleil and Tokyo Pop bistros. “It was one of my favorite things to do in life.”
And like any appreciator of good food, his enthusiasm was noticeable: “I was a little bit chubby as a kid,” he laughs.
The England-born Tivy moved to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts when he was 4. By the age of 8, Tivy’s mother was teaching him simple recipes for dishes like meatloaf, and by the age of 10, Tivy opened his first restaurant, Matt’s Place, on his parents’ back porch. Neighbors stopped by to enjoy a menu of staple foods, including sandwiches and Campbell’s soup, all lovingly prepared by Tivy. And while opportunities throughout the years allowed him to cook abroad and develop more sophisticated meals, simplicity and an appreciation of community have proven to be enduring themes in Tivy’s career.
After studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., Tivy developed a love of French cuisine. He moved to France after graduation, working unpaid kitchen jobs until he moved to New York City in 1984. He spent three years working at high-end locations, like Hotel Plaza Athenee, and alongside renowned chefs like Daniel Boulud.
“I still felt like I wanted to work with fancy food,” he said.
That slowly began to change when Tivy took a job in 1987 at Canal Bar. There, he started simplifying his recipes and getting back to basics with French bistro food.
His dream of opening a restaurant finally materialized in May 2005, when he launched Cafe du Soleil, on Broadway and West 104th Street, the Upper West Side neighborhood he’s called home for 20-plus years.
The chef opened a second restaurant, the Japanese bistro Tokyo Pop, on Broadway near West 105th Street in April 2006. And on Dec. 15, Tivy and his business partner, Alain Chevreux, plan on opening Chez Lucienne, another French bistro, in Harlem.
Tivy’s contributions to his own community have not gone unnoticed.
“From the moment Matthew opened his first restaurant, he was an activist business owner,” said Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. “He is committed to improving the neighborhood while operating two fantastic eateries that have become community treasures.”
Just as he did as a child on his back porch, Tivy still recognizes the importance of community. Even in hard times, “Neighborhood restaurants are resilient,” he said. And with his simple approach to quality cuisine, he plans to continue serving the people who that have given him a warm, hospitable welcome.
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