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Ignacio Mattos

office people

What is your ideal office?

In the restaurant business, your office is often the dining room during off hours, which I really like. That was the case in the first year of Estela. Later, when we opened our second spot, Altro, we all shifted to working from there. I like it because it doesn’t feel clinical, and there’s the come- and-go of the staff and not just a bunch of people sitting at desk. And if you wait long enough, you can almost always count on trying a dish that’s being tested for the menu. We’ve grown now, so we do have some dedicated office spaces, one of which has a nice view of the buildings in Soho. I still would rather be at the restaurant, though.


Is there anything you refuse to eat?

I’m pretty open and think that in the right hands, anything can be good. I definitely don’t like to refuse something that is being offered to me. But I draw the line at chicken feet.


What was the last thing that made you laugh?

Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I still watch all the time. My email address back in the day had the word Kramer in it.


What is your favorite word in the Spanish language?

For Spanish it’s hard to pick one, but in Portuguese there is a clear choice—saudade. This word, for which there is no direct translation, represents a whole mix of yearning, missing, nostalgia, melancholy. You could be longing for a person, a time, a place. It is the “love that remains,” some people say.


When has a flavor affected you emotionally?

It happens any time I can tell something is made with love and respect. How can I tell? It’s just one of those things that you know the moment you try it.


What is your weapon of choice?

I try not to have any weapons—not my favorite word, to be honest—but I’d say that my words can do a lot when the moment calls for it.


What does God smell like?

I’m not religious, but if God does exist, I hope it’s jasmine flowers.


Who is an artist that has inspired your cooking?

I wouldn’t say that any one artist has influenced my cooking—not even visually—but there are definitely people that I respect and appreciate, like Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra and Grayson Perry.


Where do you wish to travel?

There are too many places to name across Asia and Africa to even start listing them. But I will say that I’ve been trying to follow a new rule, which is to avoid big cities when I travel. As you might imagine, not the easiest one to stick to!


What would you do if you lost your sense of taste?

I think in that case I would focus even more on texture, how something actually feels when you eat it, on the palate, as you chew—a lot of cooks completely miss this.


What are your favorite features of the human body?

Arms and mouths.


Who do you love?

My six-year-old son, Paco, who is a beautiful handful.


If you were a professional athlete, what would be your sport?

Soccer. Uruguay, where I grew up, is one of the smallest countries in the continent, and yet we have two World Cup trophies. We take it very seriously. I was actually pretty good at it and on track to play professionally, but then a few things changed.


Is revenge really a dish best served cold?

Who doesn’t love a slice of cold pizza?

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