Welcome Home. Acclaimed Chef Matthew Harris has been on a culinary journey working alongside some of the best chefs in the country — including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Kevin Rathbun, and Pano Karatassos. While influenced by his culinary adventures and global flavors, Chef Harris is most inspired by local growers and their techniques. Chef Harris and his wife and partner, Maggie Alvarez, have come home to the Heber Valley to launch their welcoming Main Street farm to table restaurant, Afterword, which offers locally sourced menu selections and loads of southern hospitality.
After working in and opening restaurants across the country and in Park City, Chef Harris feels at home in the Heber Valley. Chef Harris grew up an hour outside Atlanta in rural Georgia, where he developed a closeness to the land. “We didn’t go to the store; we bought our produce at farm stands.” The youngest of four children, food and family were always important. As a young boy he started cooking in the kitchen with his mother, by age 25 he was the Executive Chef of the well-known Buckhead Diner in Atlanta.
About 12 years ago, Chef Harris was recruited by renowned Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten to open the J&G Grill at the St. Regis Deer Valley, having worked for him prior. “When we came to Utah, we were truly impressed by the quality and potential of local growers, cheese mongers, and ranchers,” Chef Harris remarked. Whereas fine dining used to mean focusing on exotic elements, Chef Harris preferred the authenticity of super high quality, locally sourced ingredients. With each endeavor, Harris has become closer to his food’s origins, the terroir, and working directly with local producers, which is a big part of why he feels at home in the Valley.
Chef Harris and his wife, Maggie, moved to Midway four years ago with their pups. “We wanted a home with land and to be part of a community,” Chef Harris explained. They purchased an old 1890’s farmhouse and lovingly renovated it. As I spent time with the couple, it was easy to see how they complement one another. “We mesh perfectly; we each have our own strengths,” Harris shared. “It’s a great partnership in many ways!”
Chef Harris recognized the agricultural roots of the Heber Valley and the influence that legacy has had on local producers. Launching Afterword felt organic and brings him closer to the land and growers he so admires. As a Chef, Harris has always been a proponent of using the freshest local ingredients. He isn’t afraid to get up close and personal either; he’s gotten his boots muddy with almost all of the ranchers and purveyors he uses. Chef Harris appreciates quality, small batches, and craft production. Some of Harris’ suppliers are less than 5 miles away from Afterword. Harris appreciates that proximity.
There’s a warmth and finesse to everything at Afterword from expertly prepared, locally grown food, to an award-winning wine list, and craft cocktails to knowledgeable service and an intimate atmosphere. Everything feels artisanal yet approachable and comforting. Chef Harris credits his roots and southern hospitality, “Fine dining doesn’t need to be pretentious.” And it’s not at Afterword — just beautiful, honest, and delicious fare.
Chef Harris is as passionate about the process as the product. Harris began a micro-farm on his property a couple of years ago that is now managed by Chris Pyper of Rustling Aspen Farm with the help of his restaurant team, most of whom have been with Harris for years. “By working to grow ingredients, our staff learns the story of each ingredient,” Harris explained. “Our ingredients are imbued with the care and methods of our local growers. We continue to seek out new local producers to provide sustainable options while being engaged with the community.”
Ever ambitious, Harris launched Afterword on a summer night during the COVID crisis. “We carefully considered the situation and have diligently worked to surpass the CDC and local guidelines.” From the beginning, restaurant staff strictly followed protocols for the safety and reassurance of guests and colleagues alike. Guests can choose to use one-time-use sealed paper menus or digital menus accessible by a scannable QR code. There is a dedicated staff member responsible for upholding standards and sanitizing. “Our guests can feel safe while enjoying outdoor dining on our spacious patio or curbside/to-go.”
My husband and I dined al fresco on opening night and were tempted by everything on the menu, so we practically ordered for four people! The buttermilk biscuits are basically required and melt in your mouth. We loved the freshness of Chef’s chimichurri on the lamb T-bone bites starter. The fried Drake Family Farms goat cheese with beet chips and smoked chili caramel offered that perfect agrodolce combination — the sweet/savory mix we all dream of. We also shared the bright and colorful Heber Valley veggie salad with radish, tomato, turnips, snap peas, and a complementing lemon dressing. For the main courses, we shared: the Desert Mountain Ranch flat iron steak served with barley risotto, Rustling Aspen Farms radicchio, and a flavor-filled garlic puree; we also tried the roasted Idaho trout with hominy grits, summer greens, sweet corn, and tomato vinegar. Harris has an exquisite sense of balancing flavors and textures. Somehow, we made room for dessert and loved the flakey cherry hand pie, which was baked to perfection and boosted with a delicate cinnamon frosting. Each course was plated and served with care and respect for the ingredients, their purpose, and the guest experience. We can’t wait to return to try more!
Chef Harris is genuine and engaging, which enables him to expertly staff and support his ventures. Afterword can offer a bespoke private dining experience either on-site or on location. The historic sandstone building that is home to Afterword provides an intimate setting for any private occasion. Harris can also customize a menu to share at your own venue. He continues to serve Park City clients with his concepts at The St. Regis Deer Valley, which includes RIME Seafood & Steak, The St. Regis Bar, and Brasserie 7452.
An Afterword is an expression of a point of view, and Chef Harris’ is clear; grow and select the freshest ingredients, prepare them perfectly and serve them with integrity and a side of southern charm. Harris has created a comfortable environment where family and friends can safely gather to enjoy his unexpected and flavorful pairings.
Afterword serves dinner nightly from 5-10 p.m. and brunch on Sundays from 11-3 p.m. Local musicians perform on Friday and Saturday evenings. The restaurant is closed on Monday. Seating is first come first serve, so come on in to enjoy a fine dining experience that celebrates the Valley’s heritage and beckons its future. Afterword is perfectly rooted here on Main Street.
Located at 98 South Main, Heber and online at afterwordrestaurant.com.
An afterword is an expression of a point of view