What’s a guy to do when he loves traveling and cooking? For Chef Matt Welch aka the Vagabond Chef, the answer was easy, open The Vagabond Kitchen in Wheeling, West Virginia. Though like any good travel story, there was adventure and uncertainty, however, now six years in, the Vagabond Kitchen has become home to “elevated comfort food” like burgers and Momma’s Mac & Cheese.
Welch worked in resorts and restaurants across the country for years prior to opening the Vagabond Kitchen. During that time, he learned the importance of the ingredients that make up a dish. Welch pays close attention to what goes into the food he serves and tries to source as many of the ingredients locally as possible. For him, sourcing local has a long list of positive impacts from reducing the carbon footprint and waste, to making things more connected and real. He admits it does take more effort, but that effort pays off because it keeps the money in community and results with better tasting food because the ingredients weren’t mass-produced and traveled a few hours rather than a few days.
Great food isn’t the only thing the Vagabond Chef is serving up. When you enjoy a meal at the Vagabond Kitchen, you’ll taste, and experience the quality in everything you eat and drink. Quality is something that isn’t just a passing thought for the chef, “it’s my life passion to engage in quality” says Welch, “I want to create it, and be in a shared space with it”. Engaging in quality also leads to another important value at the Vagabond Kitchen, connection. Through his cooking, Welch tries to “elevate their daily experience and give them a sense of place”, connecting with others around you, and experiencing the present moment because of the quality of food.
Just looking at the menu will get your mouth watering. From the best-selling Chicken Salad to the Blackout Burger (a burger rubbed in coffee and topped with spinach, cheese, caramelized onions, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction) it’s worth a trip to Wheeling all in itself.
Fun Fact: If you’re thinking that the Vagabond Chef looks familiar, you may have seen him in your living room, when he appeared on Guy’s Grocery Store Game on the Food Network in 2018. It’s an experience he didn’t believe was happening, especially when they first called him up after scouting him out on Instagram!