‘Galley’ owners on top of food service game

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

Matt and Meg Sullivan sport The Galley Restaurant and Pub t-shirts, which Matt designed and are worn by staff at the Naples restaurant that opened in late May. At 25 and 26, Matt and Meg are married to each other — and to the local eating establishment they own. (De Busk photo)

NAPLES — Matt and Meg Sullivan were married in 2009, but their busy lifestyles stalled an immediate honeymoon.

As the proud owners of a new restaurant in Naples, the couple has embraced a nearly non-stop schedule this sum­mer. Like first-time parents, the Sullivans have been some­what sleep deprived, as they put in the long hours necessary to pamper and promote their “baby,” The Galley Restaurant and Pub.

“Maybe, in five years when the lease is up, Meg and I will go on our honeymoon,” Matt said.

With a winning menu, atten­tion to detail, and more hours on the clock than off, the Sullivans have launched The Galley into stardom — not only on a local level, but also as a competitor among East Coast eating estab­lishments.

The cuisine served at The Galley has wowed the taste buds and the witty tongue of food critic Adam Richman, who raved about menu items in this month’s issue of Maxim maga­zine and in his book America The Edible. Richman appears on the Travel Network with his show Man V. Food.

“He likes our food, and he keeps acknowledging it. What we’re doing is working, and we’re turning out good food,” Matt said.

He plans to use his con­nection with Richman to hold a food-tasting contest at The Galley in the future.

At 25 years old, Matt has combined his business manage­ment degree, two minors in communication and computer technology, and a keen sense of what works in the kitch­en. Then, he has applied all those skills toward running and marketing a successful eating establishment.

The native Vermonter spent his summers in Raymond. As a teenager, he landed a job at the Fisherman’s Net, a quaint A-Frame he would later manage as The Galley.

“My first job was at a five-star restaurant. I started out as a dishwasher; then, I moved up to prep cook, line cook, and did catering for the restaurant, too,” Matt said. “Every single job has been in a restaurant. No formal training like chef school. I learned cooking from my mother, on the job, and taught myself.”

When the Raymond Galley owner offered him the job to run the restaurant, Matt was fresh out of college with a busi­ness degree, and declined, say­ing he wanted to find “a real job.”

He wound up managing the seasonal locale in Raymond at age 22. Even with his educa­tion in business, starting a new restaurant proved to be a learn­ing curve as he developed his own spreadsheets and designed menus and advertising.

It was a one-man show then. “I was the cook and the cashier. I flirted with the old ladies” and shot the breeze with the old-timers, he said.

Now, he works in a kitch­en five times the size, which provides the space for him to experiment with new recipes. At the Naples Galley, he intro­duced the mix-and-match lob­ster rolls — allowing people to select from 16 combinations.

Also, Matt tries to convert red meat fans into seafood lov­ers.

“A lot of people in area don’t eat seafood. They order a burg­er. I say. ‘I know you don’t like seafood, but the way I cook it, it tastes good,’” Matt said, explaining he uses less batter or subtle sauces to bring out the true flavor of fish, and prepares clams so they don’t have a rub­bery texture.

“I’d like to turn everyone over to seafood,” he continued, citing the health benefits.

While both Matt and Meg are respected in the local food service arena, they have had to battle the not-so-shiny reputa­tion of the building, where a tavern once operated.

“People still come in and ask if the pool tables are down­stairs,” he said. Matt stressed that The Galley is more about food than drinking and getting rowdy.

Already, many community members have made The Galley the new spot for family-night-out. Some followed Matt from The Galley in Raymond, while others discovered the pleasant eating environment.

Like the sea and the shore, Matt and Meg have a symbiotic business relationship.

“My strengths are his weak­nesses, and his strengths are things I don’t do as well,” the personal fitness trainer said.

“I would rather have Meg be the face for the business,” Matt said. “She is more attractive She can handle stressful situations. She is diplomatic with dif­ficult customers.”

Matt does make his rounds in the dining room, remembering what someone ordered three weeks ago and making guests feel welcome and letting locals know The Galley is a year-round res­taurant — not just reliant on tourist dollars.

Ever the business major, Matt said, “My main goal is to make a profit. My Number Two goal: I want to be recognized as one the best restaurants, where people can say the place is great, and they have no complaints.”

So, when is that honeymoon planned for? It’s not on the hori­zon yet. It is rough enough to schedule an afternoon off together, Meg said. In fact, the couple took a Wednesday off recently. When Matt stopped by the restaurant “to see how things were going,” the place was busy. Without hesitation, he jumped on the cooks’ line in the kitchen for a few hours, while guests were left wonder­ing what was taking him so long to rejoin the get-together. Meg called his cell phone; and when he didn’t pick up, she figured he was putting out dinner plates at The Galley.

Not only are they married to one another, but also, both admit they are married to The Galley and hope to make it a mainstay in Naples.

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Phone number: 693-1002.

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