The Land Down Under has arrived in West Palm Beach thanks to the addition of Isla & Co.
Nestled in the Warehouse District, this new eatery from Australian restaurant group Parched Hospitality features brunch, dinner, and drink menus brimming with the country’s vast cultural influences and steeped in its love of coffee. Just ask corporate executive chef Matt Foley, who developed dishes tinged with Southeast Asian flavors and evocative of Aussies’ coastal lifestyle. Take Foley’s fish and chips, for example. Not only are they gluten-free, but they’re seasoned with togarashi and served with a yuzu kosho tartar sauce. PBI recently caught up with the California native to discuss the food at Isla & Co. and his personal cooking style.
PBI: Did you have any preconceived notions about Australian cuisine before starting with Isla & Co.?
Foley: I didn’t have any preconceived notions, but it was eye-opening to see what the cuisine is all about. I knew a little bit about it, but diving in deeper and becoming part of this company has allowed me to play with some fun flavor profiles and do some things that have not been part of my résumé in the past. Most of my previous experience has been in more Italian or European cuisine. Even coming from California, something along those lines as well. But coming into Parched Hospitality and creating Isla & Co., we’ve been able to play with those Southeast Asian profiles that truly haven’t been part of my cuisine. It’s something I’ve always done for myself at home, but now I’m able to pull that into a work environment and create something that keeps people interested.
What are some of your earliest memories of food and cooking?
My mom is Italian, and between my mom and my grandmother, I had a very food-centered childhood. I remember growing up having pasta sauce on the stovetop and our family all gathered around. We have some family history of being in the restaurant industry; my great-grandfather was a cook, as well. It’s always been in the family, and it’s something that really brings a lot of people together. I think that’s a big piece of why I’ve always enjoyed it. I like entertaining and the camaraderie and ties that food can bring to any form of life.
What do you consider some of your culinary signatures?
Texture is one. I don’t want anything that’s ever just too soft or one note. Also, there’s usually a little bit of heat in there. Even if it’s not a spicy dish, there are going to be some elements that give off some heat. I love seafood. Just growing up in California and having a very seafood-driven Italian family, that’s my upbringing that you’ll see in the dishes I create as well.
What are some staples that you always have in your fridge at home?
I always have Calabrian chilis. Usually some form of soy sauce. I base a lot of my home cooking on the vegetables that are in-season. I can’t tell you that I always have some form of meat in the fridge because I don’t, but I always have some form of seasonal vegetables. And always herbs.