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Sometimes you just click. That’s how Charlie Keller and Matt Woolston both remember the five-minute interview that landed Keller a sous chef job at Del Paso Boulevard’s elegant Supper Club, where he’s been chef/owner Woolston’s right-hand man for more than six years.
“He was probably just desperate—so was I,” jokes Keller, who was working at Ettore’s when the two met. Previously, Keller had worked with local culinary legend Rick Mahan at the now-defunct Paragary’s in Folsom, where Keller moved up the line to executive chef.
Impressive résumé, but Keller is not one to brag. A modest Midwesterner (he’s a Nebraska transplant), Keller is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-’er-done kind of guy. At Supper Club, he’s responsible for most of the food prep and all the ordering, and he takes the grunt labor, such as unloading trucks, in stride. “It’s the low end of the job, but since we’re small, everybody pretty much does everything,” he says. Woolston puts it differently: “Charlie is the No. 1 guy,” he says. “I still do most of the menu development, but he gets everything else done. It’s very physical, the hours are long, and it’s not very glamorous.”
Keller says that’s OK by him. “I like to do everything because I’m not in a niche—not just doing pastas or salads or whatever,” he says. “Last week, I worked 70 hours and this week 20, and I like it that way because it’s less routine. It’s challenging and a lot of fun.”
Now that Woolston divides his time between Supper Club and his newer Carmichael restaurant, Matteo’s, the two aren’t joined at the hip as much as in years past. “For the first five years, it was basically Matt, me and the dishwasher,” says Keller. So much togetherness could test the best of relat-ionships, but these two are still friends.
Sometimes you just click.