February 26, 2020

Cooking, climbing, and content creation

Let’s start by getting to know you a little better. Tell us about yourself.

My name is Matt, I’m a rock climber, writer, and unprofessional cook. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I officially began publishing at 19 in the Dallas Observer, doing editorial pieces about art installations, concerts, and a little bit of everything else, too. The Observer was a lot of fun for a college kid, but ultimately, journalism just wasn’t worth the byline for me. There were a lot of late nights, all of the deadlines were hot, and the pay just wasn’t worth it.

What’s something you love to do?

I love learning, anything that stimulates the left side of my brain, really. I learn something every time I cook, climb and read or write. Learning plays a huge role in cooking, and every time I try a new recipe, I’m learning about the smells, geography, and people of a place. It tells me about what ingredients surround some far-off location, informs me about the tradition and values of an area. Cooking really is an amazing tool for exploration.

What’s your favorite place?

Nocelle, Italy, which is up the mountain from Positano on the Amalfi coast. The natural beauty combined with the hospitality of the people, the food, and the laid-back attitude is everything to me – everything I want from life can be found there. It’s an other-worldly, ethereal escape. Plus, they have incredible coastal climbing there.

If you could do anything besides what you are doing now, what would you do professionally?

Probably cook, but I would try to do it in a place where local ingredients and techniques mean something more than profits. This is definitely a “pie-in-the-sky” sort of dream because commercial restaurants are all about the bottom-line. I’d be completely happy with a shack by the coast that cranks out good, local, authentic cuisine where people can relax and share a quiet meal and some killer wine.

What is the last thing you binge-watched?

The Boys, on Amazon. It’s a show that asks the question “what if superheroes lived among us, and had real human motivations?” It’s great – it’s cool to see what would happen if someone with superhuman powers was tempted by social power, money, lust, etc. I strongly recommend it. Plus, it has an amazing, dry sense of humor and fantastic cast.

If you could live in any sitcom, which would it be?

Community. The humor is off the wall and there’s an irreverence that exists in community college that they really lean into. The world they’ve created is lighthearted, good-natured and idyllic, so it just speaks to me. In spite of all of the weirdness and wild plot-points and disfunction, the show is character-driven by a small group of students that care about each other and their school. 

Are you a listener or a talker?

Listener, full stop.

If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This is really hard. My dad is my primary culinary influence, and we’ve always played this game where you have to describe everything on your plate that you’d eat for your final meal. Over the years, that food has changed.
My dad’s cooking is southwestern, focused on green chile and traditional New Mexican food. It’s a family staple, and I can’t recall a time when he didn’t roast and press his own red chile. So, it would be red chile enchiladas from Big John’s Chile Farm in Las Cruces, with a fried egg on top and a glass of milk for the heat. If it were something that I was cooking, it’d be homemade pasta and pesto. But, I gotta give this one to my dad.

What’s your favorite children’s story?

Jack Tales, from my Grandpa T, which is a book of folk tales he used to tell us as children. They’re Appalachian folktales from the Blue Hills region – Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, all those Smoky Mountain states. They’re the earliest stories I can recall, and my grandfather is an amazing orator – he was a physics professor for years and has a rich voice and enjoys telling stories. It’s just a magical book, and I don’t think I will ever be able to locate a copy. 

If you had an extra hour of free time every day, what would you spend it doing?

Definitely spend quality time with my wife, Blair; probably cooking, hiking, or gardening.

If there weren’t any more computers, what would be your new occupation?

I’d probably still be a writer in some capacity, I would just use a pen and paper instead of a computer and accept the carpal tunnel consequences.

What do you love about the job?

I love using both sides of my brain to tell stories and earn results. My role is a blend of analytical crowd trend analysis and branded storytelling, so it’s fun to research and learn about the market, and then create strategies and content that performs within the vertical. Both sides of the job present different challenges, and I love that – it’s never boring.

Why Schaefer?

Good people and good challenges.