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Ex-Isa Chef Ignacio Mattos Responds to Taavo Somer

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In the 24 hours since news broke that Taavo Somer had cleaned house at Isa — firing pastry chef Pam Yung, sous chef José Ramirez, and head chef Ignacio Mattos — only one person has remained silent: Mattos. In a phone interview earlier this afternoon, the chef explained that he originally planned on keeping quiet, but changed his mind after reading Somer's statements on the matter to this website and the New York Times. Here are some excerpts from that brief conversation:

On the reasons for the break: "What happened yesterday, though blunt and unpleasant, wasn't a total surprise. Recently the kitchen team's vision for the restaurant clashed with Taavo's new needs and goals. It's his business, and he has a right to make those decisions. In the end, we wanted to do different things. It was busy, but it was never going to be Freemans."

On Taavo Somer's comments: "I was shocked to read the way he characterized the split in the media. Yeah, in the infant stages he wanted a more rustic and Mediterranean restaurant, but before opening he embraced the ideas we had of trying to do something else. Not to sound arrogant, but we wanted it to be something that wasn't like his other two restaurants. He stood behind that for months and months, save for occasional moments of doubt, and never put me in a position where I felt I was doing something 'uncompromising' or defiant. He supported it."

On Florence Fabricant's post on the news: "I wish the The New York Times had reached out to me for comment, as their article originally said. Most other outlets did."

On how he's doing: "The restaurant was a wonderful opportunity and I am happy and proud of the work that we did there over the last nine months. There were both high moments and disappointments, successes and mistakes, but that's part of the deal. I tried to make food that was thoughtful, tasty, and fun. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't sad to see something that was developing and getting stronger come to an end. I put my heart into it."

On the future: "I'm looking forward to playing with my little son now and finding a new project to get involved in. I don't have a blog or anything like that, so part of why I'm doing this is to thank all of the people that fought for that kitchen team and supported what we were doing. And to those that challenged and criticized us, many thanks, too."


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