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Pizza and Beer—With French Benefits

Classically trained chef Matt Ranney works his culinary magic at El Segundo’s beloved The Slice & Pint eatery.

By Maureen Kingsley

By now you are probably familiar with, and perhaps a huge fan of, El Segundo Brewing Company’s just-over-one-year-old pizza-and-craft-beer restaurant on Grand Avenue, The Slice & Pint. The eatery, owned by Rob Croxall and operated by General Manager Pete Crowner, specializes in top-of-its-class Detroit- and New York-style pizza and select El Segundo Brewing Company (ESBC) beer, and it offers other delicious items as well, including a lemony roasted broccolini and authentic meatballs.

What you may not know is that the culinary mastermind behind The Slice & Pint’s menu, Chef Matt Ranney (pictured), is a veteran with decades of experience who was formally trained at a culinary school in Pasadena. He has been working in restaurants since he was 15 years old.

“I was interested in cooking before it was cool,” Matt says, reflecting on his long career in both front-of-house roles and kitchen positions. “In Orange County, I worked my way through the front of house from ages 15 to 19, and I started in kitchens at age 17.” After graduating high school, Matt enrolled in and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu’s formal culinary program in Pasadena, learning classic French cooking techniques, among others. From there, Matt worked in kitchens in Orange County for another couple of years, then headed east to Las Vegas for the “opportunity to work under amazing, well-known chefs,” he explains.

That move to Vegas proved wise: while living and working there, Matt encountered and worked under such French culinary luminaries as Daniel Boulud (of Manhattan’s Daniel and the former Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas) and Hubert Keller (of the original Fleur de Lys in San Francisco and later in Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas). Matt’s time in Las Vegas also provided him good pay, union membership, and a low cost of living, he says.

After 2.5 years in Vegas, Matt headed back to Orange County, where he was made sous chef at AnQi, then started up and was chef de cuisine at Prive, a pop-up restaurant in Orange and Los Angeles counties. His next move was to well-known gastropub The Village Idiot on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, where he learned the art and science of whole-animal butchery, met Pete Crowner, and served as executive chef from 2012 until winter of 2018, when he helped to open The Slice & Pint—and has been its chef since.

At The Slice & Pint, Matt has taken the lead on recipe development, ingredients sourcing, and equipping the kitchen. “I’ve built the relationships needed for sourcing our produce and our mozzarella,” Matt explains, “and I’ve interviewed and trained our kitchen staff.” He adds that The Slice & Pint has been fortunate in that its rate of staff retention is high in an industry not known for such a thing.

In developing the restaurant’s beloved pizza menu, Matt says it was important for him to understand “the El Segundo demographic,” which includes lots of young families and hard-working adults. “This is a neighborhood restaurant,” he says, underscoring the need to appeal to patrons of all ages, including kids. As such, Matt’s menu includes such must-haves as cheese and pepperoni pizzas, plus veggie options and specialty pizzas, such as “Rob’s In Maui” (spam and pineapple with pickled onions), “Crowntown” (lots of garlic with chili oil and prosciutto), and “The Benny” (meatballs, pickled peppers, and fresh oregano). The secret to this fun, innovative menu is “lots of brainstorming and collaboration,” Matt says, referring to his colleagues Rob, Pete, and Tom Kelley.

Matt and team also create pizzas to pair with new ESBC beer releases, as they did with the now-retired Surfin’ Bird IPA.

What makes Chef Matt’s work at The Slice & Pint unique, he says, is a combination of high-quality ingredients, an open-ended approach, and great care taken with sauces and toppings, such as his core béchamel made with French techniques and garlic blended in.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing here,” he says. “The Slice & Pint offers very high-quality dishes, good working conditions, good growth, and good interpersonal relationships.” And fortunately for those of us who can’t seem to get enough of the spectacular pizza, meatballs, and crowlers on offer at The Slice & Pint, the eatery remains open for takeout during California’s Stay at Home order. Contact the restaurant by phone at 310-648-8479 or online, and enjoy some of Chef Matt’s creations from the safety of your own home.

This story appears in the May 2020 issue of The El Segundo Scene.

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