Apronomics: Matthew Daughaday of Juniper
Matthew Daughaday started his culinary career working for chef Marc Del Pietro. The chef also put in time in the kitchen of Gerard Craft’s Niche and Taste. In 2015, he opened his own much lauded restaurant, Reeds American Table, in Maplewood. Even with all of these accomplishments under his belt, Daughaday isn’t done making his mark on the St. Louis culinary scene. Last year, he took up the reins at Juniper as chef de cuisine.
A native St. Louisan, Daughaday grew up in University where he was inspired by the neighborhood’s vibrant appreciation of the arts. “It was an awesome place to live,” he notes. “My sisters and I played violin and cello, and we really came up around the arts. St. Louis has that small town mentality of being open and welcoming.”
Food has always played a major role in Daughaday’s life. Growing up, his family enjoyed cooking dinner together every night; however, he didn’t consider it as a career path until he was in college working on a degree in English education. “I was going to school in Colorado and got a job working at an organic market,” he says. “I learned more and more about food and decided to pursue the culinary arts.” Returning to St. Louis, he started working for Del Pietro. After three years, he decided to expand his understanding of the restaurant business and made the move to San Francisco to attend the California Culinary Academy.
Upon arriving in San Francisco, Daughaday got a job at Waterbar Restaurant under chef Park Ulrich. “I was working and going to school full time, so I was fully immersed in as much of the restaurant world as I could be,” he says. Following his graduation, Daughaday was offered a position at Niche. “It was a great excuse to come back home,” he jokes. “I’ve never had a desire to live anywhere but St. Louis, and thanks to Gerard and others, something really exciting was happening here. It was great to look at Chicago, New York and San Francisco and see that the same things were happening here.”
Daughaday has enjoyed watching the St. Louis culinary scene continue to flourish and innovate. “This city has a rich history in food, and I feel like I’ve been lucky to have been a part of its culinary renaissance since the beginning,” he explains. “Now more than ten years later, it’s amazing to see the diversity of cuisine and people contributing to it. Sometimes, I worry we can’t sustain more restaurants, but that is never the case. People in St. Louis have really responded to and supported this growth, which I think inspires people to want to add to the landscape. It’s awesome to be a part of.”
After closing Reeds American Table in 2019, Daughaday was considering his next move. He was familiar with Juniper and its owner, John Perkins, and thought the southern restaurant would be the perfect fit. “I’ve always had a southern slant to my food, and John was super open to letting me do my own thing,” he notes. “I came on right before the start of the pandemic, which was a crazy time, but I’ve been able to continue to learn and grow. I’ve got no complaints. It’s been an awesome experience.”
While the pandemic has created supply chain issues for some products, Daughaday is still innovating with Juniper’s menu. When it comes to creating a new dish, his focus is on flavor and the ingredients, including their history. “There’s a lot of lost history behind ingredients like heirloom grains that are used in southern cuisine,” he says. “I like to learn where they come from and how they’ve been presented in the past. I filter that information through my own experiences to try and figure out what customers will respond to. It’s about finding a balance between what people are comfortable with and how you can push them to try something new.”
5 red bell peppers
6 red thai chili,
1 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. ground caraway
2 tbsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. salt
1 c. blended oil
¼ c. red wine vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, drizzle a small amount of oil over the whole bell peppers to coat the outside and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Lay the peppers on their sides on a baking tray.
- Place the tray in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove peppers from the oven and place in a clean bowl. Wrap with plastic wrap and let sit covered for 15 minutes. After the time has elapsed, peel away the peppers’ outside skin and discard seeds and stems.
- In a blender, place cleaned peppers and all other ingredients except oil and vinegar. Blend on low moving speed slowly up to high until the mixture is smooth.
- While the blender is still running, slowly drizzle in oil to emulsify into pepper puree. Last, drizzle in vinegar. Once all ingredients are incorporated, taste for seasoning. Adjust as desired.
serving suggestion: At Juniper, we use harissa in a variety of applications. Currently, we use it on our broccolini and carrot dish. Once the harissa is made we roast broccolini and carrots in the oven together. When they come out of the oven and are still hot, we spoon a couple of tablespoons of harissa over the vegetables and toss to coat. Once placed in a dish together, we tear mint leaves to spread over and finish with a sprinkle of benne seeds.