At home with chef Matthew Circle

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Matthew Circle, executive chef of Peabody’s restaurant in Birmingham, clearly remembers helping his grandmother make biscuits when he was only 4 or 5 years old.

“She would put me right up on the counter and I would help her roll out the dough.” he says. “I loved doing it and it turns out I’ve never had a job that wasn’t in the kitchen. In fact, my goal when I was growing up was to be better known than Chef Boyardee.”

Circle’s first official job, at the age of 14, was at the Dairy Dome in Higgins Lake, Michigan.

“I was the egg guy and all I did was flip eggs,” he said. And he worked at several different Up North restaurants all through his high school years.

After graduating from Houghton Lake High School in 1992, Circle enrolled at the Florida Culinary School in West Palm Beach, where in 1996 he received a double associate degree in food and beverage, as well as in management and culinary arts.

“My grandparents were living in Florida at the time and had seen a commercial about the school and told me about it,” he says.

Following graduation, Circle worked first as a sous chef at the Kings Crown Restaurant at the South Seas Plantation Resort in Captiva, Florida, and then as the kitchen manager at H.B.’s On The Gulf restaurant in the Naples Beach and Golf Resort in Naples, Florida.

After moving back to Michigan in 2002, the chef opened a bakery in Manistee that supplied baked goods to local restaurants and also sold 37 different flavors of jam, all hand-made with local fruits.

In 2011, Circle moved back to the Detroit area to be the executive chef at the Westin Hotel in Southfield and was named Peabody’s executive chef in March of this year. He is also responsible for making weekend desserts for the Lion’s Den in Waterford.

Circle, 41, says because his wife, Angela, is a great cook and because his two children Madelyn, 11, and Logan, 13, love to cook, he doesn’t actually make many meals “chez Circle.”

“I mainly supervise,” he says. However, this summer, the Waterford resident says he is relishing cooking on his brand new Professional Char-Griller, which has a side burner, a gas grill, a charcoal grill and a smoke box that are all connected. “I call it my ‘Tax Refund Grill’ because I purchased it with my 2014 tax refund,’ he said.

Smoked Salmon


Ingredients for the flatbread

4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 package yeast

1 cup milk

1 cup cottage cheese

2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preparation for the flatbread

Mix all ingredients in your Kitchen Aid with the dough hook attachment. (You can also do this by hand.) Let the mixture double in size, which will take about 45 minutes. Portion the dough into 7 six-ounce balls, then roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Place on a pre-heated grill and cook for about 45 seconds to a minute on each side.

Ingredients for the smoked salmon topping

8 ounces smoked salmon

8 ounces whipped cream cheese

1 red onion, sliced thin

3 ounces capers

Dill for garnish

Preparation for the smoked salmon topping

Slather cream cheese on top of the flatbread. Tear the salmon into pieces. Place on top of each flatbread. Then top with onions, capers and dill. Serves 7.

Per serving: 463 calories; 15 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 27 percent calories from fat); 64 g carbohydrates; 7 g sugar; 47 mg cholesterol; 1,532 mg sodium; 20 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Smoked Chicken

1 pound boneless chicken thighs

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and let marinate for about one hour.

Prepare your grill with charcoal on one side only, so that you have a cold side. Place water-soaked wood chips (whatever kind you like best) in a disposable pie tin or a cast iron skillet and place on top of the hot charcoal. Place the chicken directly on the cold side of the grill and place a pan of water underneath the chicken. (This indirect heat serves to create moisture, which makes the chicken tender and juicy.) Cook the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 274 calories; 20 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 66 percent calories from fat); 14 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 66 mg cholesterol; 825 mg sodium; 16 g protein; 0.5 g fiber.

California Rolls with Krab and Avocado

2 cups sushi rice (prepared as directed on package)

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 8-ounce package Krab

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/4 cup mayonaisse

1 avocado

1 bamboo mat

6 sheets Nori

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Soy sauce

Once the rice is cooked, combine it with the salt, sugar and vinegar and set aside. Pulse the krab in a food processor with sesame oil and mayo for 35 to 40 seconds. (You can add a little more mayo if the mixture is too dry.) Set aside. Slice avocado into thin slices and set aside. Wrap bamboo mat in plastic wrap. Cut Nori sheet in half, top to bottom. Place 1/2 of a Nori sheet on the bamboo mat. Cover Nori with the rice (moisten your hands before you do this so the rice won’t stick). Sprinkle rice with sesame seeds. Flip Nori so the rice now faces the mat. Place avocado slices end to end on the bottom half of the Nori. Place krab mixture on top of avocado slices. Using the mat, roll the bottom to the top, pressing firmly as you roll it. Cut in half. Then cut in quarters. Drizzle with soy sauce. Makes 8 rolls.

Per serving: 184 calories; 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 49 percent calories from fat); 19 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 8 mg cholesterol; 1,081 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber.