A Chef with Heart: Paul Mattison is Planting it Forward
Paul Mattison has the creativity of a master chef and the empathy of a father—a combination that makes him one of the area’s most authentic givers.
He is typically known for being the moniker behind the local Mattison’s culinary brand, but when he is not busy being an executive chef/restaurateur, he is working with organizations like All Faiths Food Bank to help feed the hungry.
“Chef Paul has been a loving friend of the Food Bank and a dedicated board member for years,” says Sandra Frank, the CEO of All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota and DeSoto counties, which distributed more than six million pounds of food to those in need last year. “His concern about the community is absolutely genuine and he gives from the heart. We deeply appreciate his compassion and kindness.”
All Faiths has been a passion project for Mattison for more than two decades. He is also charitably committed to Any Given Child and Florida Winefest & Auction, and he often hosts cooking demonstrations for the area Boys & Girls Clubs, Girls Incorporated of Sarasota County, and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
A New Yorker and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Mattison made his mark on Sarasota in the early 1990s as the owner/chef of the Summerhouse Restaurant on Siesta Key. In 2001, he co-created the Mattison’s concept, which now includes Mattison’s Catering Company (an in-house and offsite catering enterprise), Mattison’s City Grille (a downtown Sarasota al fresco eatery), Mattison’s Forty-One (an elegant South Sarasota restaurant), Mattison’s Bayside at the Van Wezel (the official caterer for the performing arts hall), and Mattison’s Culinary Adventure Travel (a venture that offers hands-on cooking experiences).
Even with all this multi-tasking, Mattison never makes philanthropy a back-burner item.
“Someone once said to me, ‘If you need to get something done, ask a busy person,’” Mattison says with a laugh.
Much of Mattison’s humanitarian firepower is channeled into annual events for All Faiths, such as Bowls of Hope (he mans the soup stations), the Greenhouse Gala (he cooks with homegrown ingredients), and several volunteer luncheons (he caters them).
“I really love the BackPack Kids Program at All Faiths and their campaign to end summer hunger. You just realize that so many kids in our community may only have a couple of meals at school [every day] and, during the summertime, they have nothing to eat,” Mattison says. “I love working with kids in general, which is how I got involved in doing gardening at schools with the Chefs Move to Schools program. It’s exciting to be able to teach children about nutrition and where food comes from. They’re more apt to try things and stretch out their palate when they see the food grow.”
Digging his hands in the dirt, educating students about the planet and the food industry, and making a lasting impact on the young gives Mattison a sense of soul fulfillment. Being a parent to two young children (ages 3 and 7), Mattison has a personal connection to the concept.
“Being a chef, I naturally enjoy feeding people. But I think, with anything we do in life, we’ve got to look at the next generation and we’ve got to cultivate the young people to replace us,” Mattison says. “As much as I want young people to be healthy because it’s what I have a passion for, I think I’m even more sensitive to it now that I have my own children.”
Mattison has even presented speeches on corporate philanthropy and how business owners can further their endeavors through this type of giving.
“I really believe in people and getting the best people you can find around you, rolling up your sleeves, and helping people when they need it. I manage to make the time to do things like that that are important,” Mattison says. “I say to business owners, ‘Do something you care about, but if you do, don’t be afraid to use that to grow your business.’ The more successful your business is, the more opportunities you’ll have to get involved in more and give more. That’s what it’s really all about.”