Faces of Sun Valley: Matt Robinson

It’s easy to be average. You don’t have to do anything special to be-run-of-the-mill, and it certainly doesn’t take much passion or pride to be just okay.

That’s why you can tell there’s something different about the Konditorei in the Sun Valley Village the moment you step into the Austrian-inspired restaurant and bakery. Excellence is what they’re aiming for, and anyone who’s enjoyed a pastry, coffee, cocktail or meal there will tell you they’re hitting the mark.

Matt Robinson has been the restaurant manager at the Konditorei for nearly three years now. Originally from Atlanta, Matt found his passions and calling here at America’s original destination mountain resort. He also found the love of his life.

After growing up in the Southeast, Matt came to a point in his young life when he decided it was time for a change. So he left Georgia for the Rocky Mountains. After spending a season working at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming, he realized he “just felt more at peace and at home in the mountains,” as he explained. Matt then made his way further west to Idaho, to spend a ski season working in Sun Valley. As is the case with so many, he soon fell in love with the place and never left. But Matt wound up falling in love with more than just Sun Valley.

While Matt was working as a waiter at the old Gretchen’s restaurant in the Sun Valley Lodge, he not only caught of the eye of management—which soon had him running shifts—he also caught the fancy of a French busser, here as part of the J1 student exchange program. A true Sun Valley love story, Matt and Chloe were married locally in 2010, and held another ceremony in France a couple years later.

The happily married couple still works for Sun Valley, with Chloe now running the banquets department. They both clearly have passions for each other, for Sun Valley and for their work.

While their careers keep them busy, Matt and Chloe make sure they take a trip together during the off-season and still try to enjoy their non-working lives in Sun Valley. Matt is an avid snowboarder and mountain biker and the couple made the most out of his recent 30th birthday by paragliding on Baldy in the morning, four-wheeling outside Bellevue in the afternoon and ending the day with celebration at the Sawtooth Brewery in Ketchum.

“We still try to make it a point to make time for us, and to enjoy the great outdoor lifestyle here,” Matt said. “It’s why we live here.”

While Matt’s big amorous break came at Gretchen’s, his big career break came when he was given the opportunity to manage Trail Creek Cabin.

“I had a great run there and that’s when I realized that this is what I wanted to do,” Matt said about his three years at the historic cabin.

Matt has now been managing the Konditorei for nearly three years, and under his helm the restaurant has had been steadily improving its popularity and its impact on the environment. The food, atmosphere, prices and service have all gained a reputation for being amongst the best the entire Big Wood Valley.

“We have a good word of mouth reputation around the valley and that’s important,” Matt said from the Konditorei’s bustling dining room recently. “We don’t just want hotel guests to come in. We want locals and other Sun Valley employees to come in. We look at them all same. We want people to come in here and have a great experience and want to come back time and time again.”

Named in honor of the original bakery in Sun Valley, “Poor Richard’s Konditorei,” the eatery is rather unique for more than just the quality of the food and service.

The place is a combination bakery counter, coffee house and sit down restaurant for breakfast and lunch (and even dinner during the holidays or during their popular seasonal beer-pairing meals).  Matt said one of the biggest keys to the success of the Konditorei is the staff.

From the baker or “konditor,” Chris McCarthy, and the kitchen staff to Greg Vanhoozer and Mara Barnatt and the front of the house team, the crew at the Konditorei seems to genuinely enjoy their work, and it shows.

“All the success we’ve had is about the teammates we have,” Matt said, about a staff that has far less turnover than most area restaurants. The familiar faces not only make it welcoming for regulars like myself, but assure a consistent product and experience for guests.
“I consider myself a player-coach,” Matt said, siting a sports reference to explain his extremely successful management style (The staff even has its own Fantasy Football League). “I’m in the trenches, working with the team, getting my hands dirty. The staff wants to work for me because I want to work for them. We’ve created a real culture of teamwork and great customer service.”

Most restaurants would be happy simply providing consistently great food, drinks and service, but the Konditorei staff isn’t happy to just settle there. Matt has overseen the restaurant’s “Green Initiative,” and just like everything else they do, it’s been wildly successful as well.

“We’re always looking at ways we can improve and become more eco-friendly,” Matt said. “We’re really trying to be conscious about what we’re doing and assess every little detail because it all makes a difference.”

Leaving no stone unturned, the Konditorei has now gone green in a variety of ways. It begins with their coffee. Grounds are now kept out of the landfill, saved and passed along to local gardeners. The to-go cups are made from recycled materials and the Cup Club started earlier this year rewards folks for reusing their steel Konditorei travel cups.

The eco-friendly ideas can be found throughout the restaurant including the menus themselves. After Matt realized they were going through 2,400 paper menus a year, he switched it up. They now use only 200 per year, and they are all printed on 100% recycled paper, covered with a special laminate to protect them from getting wet and were produced by company that only uses green power.

“It’s huge. Even though it might not seem like a big deal on the scale of the whole world, if everyone started to do what we’re trying to do, it would make a big difference,” Matt said.

Passion, pride and great teamwork make a big difference as well. It’s a difference you can feel—and taste—at the Konditorei. That’s why the restaurant isn’t known for just being okay. It’s known for being exceptional, and it all starts with the man who loves with the service industry and his life here in Sun Valley.

“I love what I do,” Matt said, “and that makes a difference.”

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