The first restaurant Matt McNamara opened, Sons & Daughters—a high-end San Francisco spot centered around an innovative tasting menu—earned a Michelin star. The coveted award is a huge coup, especially for the chef’s first restaurant. Getting the fame and glory out of the way early on in his career enabled McNamara to focus on what matters most in his life: He started a family and moved to an 83-acre farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2014 so he could grow his own produce and raise animals. Sometime along his culinary journey, the decorated chef decided the meat from the animals he raised “never tasted as good as it should have”; he found more satisfaction in eating fresh fruit and vegetables right off of the vine. This paradigm shift led McNamara to open Pretty Good Advice in Soquel in 2019.
The affordable, 100% vegetarian restaurant is the antithesis of Sons & Daughters in all the best ways. Known for stellar breakfast sandwiches, amazing plant-based burgers with fries, they also do farm-fresh seasonal fruit along with a rotating cast of tasty soups and salads—and vegan soft-serve for dessert. PGA is open every day from 9am-5pm. McNamara recently riffed about his farm and restaurant and what brings him culinary joy these days.
Tell me about your farm-restaurant sustainability loop.
MATT McNAMARA: Basically, every single food scrap from our restaurant is brought back by me to the farm every night, and we separate it to the animals’ preferences. What the animals give to me is their energy for the trees through their manure. We compost everything, and the property lives off this compost. The restaurant plays a vital role in feeding the animals, which then give their energy and life back to the farm and the ingredients, and then back to the restaurant.
Culinarily speaking, what inspires you now?
It’s not about ego; it’s based on giving. People shouldn’t have to go to a fine-dining restaurant in order to experience vibrant food at an approachable price point. Bringing more people in and making great food more accessible is far more fulfilling than serving an expensive dish. I’m far more fulfilled as a chef providing great food made with care for $10 instead of hundreds. At this point in my career, I feel like I’m a vessel for connecting people to really high-quality food that normally isn’t easy or accessible in a quick-service setting.
3070 Porter St., Soquel, 831-226-2805; prettygoodadvicesoquel.com.