By Lanier Laney
Midwestern born Matthew Pieper moved to San Francisco when he was 6 years old when his dad got a job working for the Grateful Dead. (And yes, Matthew was lucky enough to attend more than 250 Dead concerts for free while growing up).
In San Francisco, from an early age he also got to experience a world of different cuisines, from Indian to Chinese to Italian and more. Amazingly, his first job in the hospitality industry came his way when he was just 10 years old.
Says Matthew, “I used to help the valets open the passenger doors at a restaurant in San Francisco named Basta Pasta. I had this little white sports coat I used to wear. I would open the ladies’ doors for them and, delighted, they would tip me.
I thought it was the coolest thing ever. My mom would freak out when I would come home at 10 years old with a $100 bucks in my pocket for helping out for three hours.”
After high school and jobs here and there, in the spring of 2002, Matthew decided to visit his sister Jennifer who had moved to the little town of Beaufort, South Carolina.
“I instantly fell in love with this charming coastal town and knew I was going to stick around here for quite some time,” he said.
He got his first job downtown at Ollie’s restaurant. After that, he got a job as Bar Manager at The Beaufort Inn.
Says Matthew, “The Beaufort Inn is where I found my passion for the hospitality business and a love for fine food and wine. Not only did The Beaufort Inn spark something inside of me, but it is where I met my best friend and now wife, Anya Chase (who was the Front Desk Manager)”.
Matthew and Anya found they both shared a great love of food, wine and people.
In 2005, they decided to take a trip across America in an R.V. to explore the different food cultures and people and get hospitality jobs along the way. Their travels took them through 37 states and 12 national parks.
Working in Napa Valley, California, and Boulder, Colorado, were two particularly formative experiences for them.
Matthew said, “In Napa I worked at Auberge du Soleil then for Philippe Jeanty working at two of his restaurants — PJ’s Steakhouse and Bistro Jeanty. Anya worked at Dean & Deluca in the Cheese and Charcuterie Department. I also worked part time at Hurley’s Restaurant for Bob Hurley. In Boulder, Colorado, I worked at Q’s Restaurant in the Historic Boulderado Hotel, and Anya was the front desk manager of the St. Julien Hotel.”
They learned a lot on their journey about the different regions of our country and how the differing local food and wine can be a particular reflection of that area.
In 2009 they decided to move back to Beaufort to be closer to Anya’s parents, Gerry and Suzan Chase, whom Matthew describes as “the most amazing in-laws a man could ever have.”
Anya began working as the manager of the Rhett House Inn and Matthew became a popular waiter at the new Breakwater Restaurant. After that he became manager of the restaurant at the Tooting Egret Bistro.
He will now be the new bar manager for the soon to open Old Bull Tavern at 205 West Street, in the old Breakwater space between Emily’s and Plums. Chef John Marshall from Charleston is the owner of the new gastropub.
Says Matthew, “I am really excited about this new adventure. I love being behind the bar and the energy that encompasses it. It is a controlled chaos that the faint of heart need not apply. Multitasking while still holding a conversation are some of the challenges. But watching smiling faces enjoying great food, wine and cocktails make it totally worth while. The relationships you form with patrons and getting to know so many different people make it one of the most amazing jobs. Beaufort is definitely in for a treat.”
Matthew and Anya live on Battery Creek and enjoy cooking at home with friends and family, kayaking the scenic waterways around Beaufort and just hanging out on the dock enjoying the majestic sunsets that Beaufort has to offer.
Says Matthew about his chosen career, “What I love about the hospitality industry is creating those magical moments. Whether it is a special occasion or just a night on the town, it is about connecting with your patrons and making each and every person feel special and their leaving feeling that way. It is about creating memories that people can share for a lifetime.”
You can visit Matthew at the bar of The Old Bull Tavern when it opens in mid-August, Tuesday through Saturday.