Matt Hinckley's journey through culinary's crazy world has seen him man kitchens from Disney to Miami, Nicaragua to Alaska, Tanzania to New Zealand and a few points in between. And through it all – the learning, the reading, the voracious drinking – it's no surprise he's managed to become one of the city's most hardened and experienced chefs.
But Hinckley isn't just another autodidact with wanderlust; the man has an intuition about food and its place in today's world, having sharpened that awareness at James Beard Award-winning Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Michelin-starred (and now closed) Public in New York City. He's a champion of responsible agricultural practices; of sustainability and zero waste; of the local independent farmer; of knowing where our food comes from; and of meat ... really fancy meat.
His stint as executive chef of Miami's Box Park, a restaurant that played up the virtues of whole-animal butchery and nose-to-tail dining, offered a glimpse of the world in which the Orlando native would soon immerse himself.
In 2015, he connected with Emily Rankin of Local Roots, and launched Hinckley's Fancy Meats out of Local Roots' food hub in Lake Helen before opening his retail stall inside East End Market this past March.
Huddles often amass around the new display case, where some gawk and others drool at the sight of the flesh fantasies fashioned by Hinckley – truffle pâté ("best eaten on a superyacht" he claims), pork terrine with pistachios, turkey sausage, tasso ham, bacon liverwurst, smoked antelope sausage. There's a crackling porchetta that's used in the sandwich ($14) of the same name which, apart from being a little undersalted, was superbly gratifying with a layer of salsa piccante, broccoli rabe and roasted peppers. Many of those fillings are procured from Fleet Farming, while the bread – ciabatta in this case – comes from the Olde Hearth Bread Co. right next door.
Yes, in addition to being a specialty meat and charcuterie house, Hinckley's also serves as a sandwich shop, and a mighty fine one at that. That became clear after I devoured a Wapiti elk meatball sandwich ($15) soon after Hinckley's opened. It had a kick Hinckley said came from local datil peppers, which often find their way into the various pâtés, terrines and rillettes as well. Subsequent visits had me gorging on bracing banh mis ($14) fattened with squares of country pâté, duck-liver pâté, pickled daikon, watermelon radish, jalapeños and plenty of cilantro. On another visit, Hinckley suggested I sample the pastrami on rye ($14). Let me just say that if your bubbe is visiting from Brooklyn, you should treat her to this sandwich. Naturally, it's made from grass-fed Florida beef, and the horseradish lends just the right amount of nostril-flare. A citrus aioli adds a surprising zest, and a Florida twist, to the roasted chicken salad sandwich ($13) served on a croissant.
Hinckley is currently limited to roasting, smoking, short cures and softer preserved meats, but once a processing facility is secured and operations centralized, he'll get back into larger-scale dry curing – which means more fancy meat and more fancy meat shops around town. Until then, Hinckley will continue to make responsibly raised and impeccably crafted meats available to all of us, and for that, we're thankful.