Service Sessions: Coffee Trainer, Matthew Williams

By Kelly Doran

Upon meeting Matthew down at Ellie’s for the very first time, I could tell that we had hired someone who was truly magical. Matthew, a newer team member, radiates positive energy and his laugh is contagious. Matthew introduced himself with a strong handshake and eye contact. He spoke about his coffee, his craft, and his tools like they were the sun to his soil—something he couldn’t live without. I had the immense pleasure of being able to catch up with Matthew for just a brief moment in time. Read his Service Session below, and then come on down to Ellie’s to meet him!

What is your roll in the Venture?
I’m the coffee trainer for both Ellie’s and Gracie’s. I think sometimes people don’t understand that yes, we do have a coffee trainer because coffee is such a niche thing, and if you don’t get it, or don’t know, it can go right over your head. When making coffee and serving coffee, there are tiny details that you can include to make your espresso taste good. Coffee is such a delicious thing that can be underrepresented, especially when in conjunction with food. Within the Venture, there are so many people who make coffee that everyone’s coffee comes out a bit different because coffee is such a personal thing, so one of my goals within the program is to kind of streamline the product while keeping coffee personal. It’s important to get it consistent for our guests.

You’re stranded on a desert Island—what 3 foods are with you? Drink?
This concept is so hard! I’d have to say fried eggs, which are so important! I’m a coffee guy, so I love breakfast—it’s everything! I love a good runny egg! I’d have to bring watermelon, because it’s just so refreshing. I think about all the watermelon margaritas I’ve had in my life, so watermelon is a staple. I have to go for the last food item… a really good cheesy bread! I would not be who I am without cheesy bread! It picks you up and makes you feel good! To drink—if I had to really pick just one thing, it would be cold brew coffee. It is honestly everything! I’ve become so New England so quickly—I’m drinking cold brew in winter! In Seattle, where I’m from, there are no clear cut seasons, really, and you don’t ever really know what to expect from one day to the next—so I have to stick to a black cold brew.

What inspires you to come back to work everyday?
It’s about perfecting and sharing my craft. I’m really passionate about the hospitality aspect of selling coffee, but making coffee is an art form. I feel like I’m drawing or painting all day long. I love learning new things from one day to the next about how to make my coffee beautiful. There are new techniques and new developments when it comes to making my coffee beautiful, so I want to stay relevant on that and share what I learn. There are little things you can do to have your latte come out more beautiful every time. It’s been a wild ride. I come from being mentored by a person who was really into the competition aspect of coffee, so I feel like it’s a pointed scale, and I feel like sometimes that is not conducive to being an artist, so sometimes I let go of the competition aspect and really focus on making my products beautiful. I come back to get better by 1 percent every day. As long as I’m not regressing, and moving forward, that’s what matters.

Tell me about a time where you had a challenging guest, and how you turned that around?
I have challenging guests all the time! That can be a “thing” in this industry, but I’m in the coffee aspect of the industry—where coffee is personal, and everyone has their own palate. We’re conditioned to think about coffee in a certain way, especially with the Starbucks and Dunkins in the world. With coffee there can be things created by a corporate model that gets information skewed. A flat white is not what a guest thinks it is, or a cappuccino isn’t what they think it is, all because of the corporate standard. I’m trying to give our guests what they want, and my job is to give these guests the information they need to actually order what they want. With coffee, I deal with people in the morning, so almost no one is their happiest before their morning coffee.

What is your favorite industry slang?
I love “heard” right now! You can use it in your home life, work life, and with friends. I feel that “heard” is used only at Gracie’ s Venture, which makes it even better.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
The very first thing I ever wanted to be was Aladdin, and that didn’t super work out for me. He had an awesome monkey, but then I realized he stole items to get by, so I didn’t want to be Aladdin—I shifted over wanting to be a police officer for a hot second. I was studying to get myself into the police academy. I would have made it to being an officer, but the day of my test to get into a police department, I didn’t go. I’m from a little country town, south of Seattle. I decided that I was going to move, and make things happen, and I started working in coffee immediately. Isn’t it funny that it’s almost pre-determined? You just follow the path that is set in front of you.

What makes this Venture so Special?
Miss Ellen. Miss Ellen is what makes this so special. She makes all of us feel important . She takes care of us. She took care of my Valentine’s Day dinner, and I cried! I actually cried because how generous is that!? She makes everyone feel included, respected, and special, and I have never ever had this in my life. I’ve never just had someone that pushed me to learn for the betterment of the guests and ourselves. It is priceless to have her support.