- Photos by Keith Borgmeyer
Catering company owner Matt Clervi creates an outdoor space fit for a chef.
Ask Matt Clervi his favorite thing to cook in his home’s outdoor space and you might be surprised by his answer: baked chicken with roasted vegetables. For the classically trained French chef and chief executive officer at Fresh Ideas, it’s the perfect menu to serve guests at his home’s outdoor pavilion.
Matt and his wife, Kathy, chose a lot in the Copperstone subdivision in south Columbia seven years ago to build their custom home. “We have just under three acres, so we can build our raised gardens and have woods to walk in,” Matt says. “It was a beautiful lot, so it was easy to envision a beautiful home and still be close to amenities and the trail. Kathy wanted to be in the city but not live in the city.”
The home has an arts-and-crafts feel with large windows in the living room and a screened-in porch overlooking the backyard space, which they worked on finishing after the home’s construction was complete. “Our vision was to bring the indoors and outdoors together and to make it feel like an extension of the house,” Matt says.
Cooking Up an Outdoor Chef’s Kitchen
Their goal was to create an entertaining space where they could host family and friends, and where Matt could further hone his culinary skills.
Before co-founding Fresh Ideas 20 years ago, Matt worked as a sous chef at Café Allegro in Kansas City and the Toledo Room at the Lake of the Ozarks, where he says he didn’t realize just how much he was learning.
Now, at his own outdoor space, he “didn’t want to feel like [he] was standing right outside in the middle of my backyard grilling.” That’s why the couple worked with RS Construction to create the centerpiece of the outdoor space — a large, custom outdoor pavilion with a true chef’s kitchen that still ties into the look and feel of the main home. For Matt, it offered the perfect space to entertain and showcase his skills. The pavilion features 20-foot tongue-and-groove cedar ceilings and rustic cliff blocks centered around a large custom stone fireplace with a television hanging overhead.
Matt loves to work with wood. He has a wood-fire grill on order from Grillworks, a premier maker of wood-fired grills favored by professional chefs, along with a chimney that will be installed in the next few months.
No outdoor entertaining area would be complete without the extra touches, like a kegerator featuring craft beer on tap and a wine fridge. A teak bar and furniture provide comfortable spots to sit and enjoy that craft beer while listening to the soothing waterfall in the backyard. The kitchen area is finished with granite countertops from Central Missouri Countertops and a granite farmhouse sink with a chiseled, rough-hewn apron and an Elkay faucet. A speaker system and Wi-Fi offer entertainment options that are all easily controlled with Pure Audio’s system.
The outdoor kitchen is the perfect space for cookouts and for Matt’s baked chicken, although appetizers and small plates are also a favorite for the family. The family also often plays host to a Copperstone neighborhood association food and drink crawl.
Fresh Ideas for Enjoying the Backyard
Fresh Ideas is celebrating its 20-year anniversary this year, and amid a global pandemic, Matt is most proud of the company’s employees. “With Fresh Ideas, it boils down to one thing: our employees. Our focus is on employee satisfaction. It always has been and always will be,” he says. “That’s the key to our success and the key to keeping clients.” With a diversified base in health care, senior living, business and industry, and private K-12 education segments, the chef-inspired food service company is currently in 10 states. They’ve been using the lockdown time to work further on employee certifications.
At home, Matt finds comfort in watching his martin birdhouses and growing vegetable gardens and a small fruit orchard shared with neighbors. Helmi’s Gardens also worked with the couple to complete the landscaping and greenery for their yard.
The couple’s two teenage boys, Nick and Trey, also enjoy hanging outside with their friends, and soon they’ll have another feature to make the yard more entertaining — a Michael Phelps Swim Spa, which provides a current so that you can swim in water without the stress of gravity. For the Clervi boys, who both swim with Columbia Swim Club, it will be the perfect addition to their yard, particularly during a time when they can’t regularly attend practice.
In the future, the Clervi family plans to enclose the outdoor pavilion so that it can be a heated space and stay functional throughout Missouri winters. It will be the perfect spot to cook and enjoy that baked chicken.