Welcome to Kitchen Southern Hospitality’s seven-day August blogathon! Today I’m interviewing Matthew Roybal, a food photographer at Mateo J Designs. Matthew’s food images are eye catching and tempting.

Caprese Salad

I can’t scroll through his Instagram gourmet photos without stopping to see the recipes of his newest sweet and savory dishes. Light and fresh, they make great family-friendly meals.

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Matthew Roybal
Matthew with Mateo J Designs

The Interview

1.  What is the story behind your gourmet style recipes?

It all started with having a family that loves to cook. In our house good food has always been a way of life. My whole family loves to cook and my Grandma was super old school. She was still weighing out her ingredients with scales and brass weights to measure out the right amounts. Growing up was amazing having parents that cooked at home and that made traditional Guatemalan, and New Mexican/French food. My success in the kitchen got nurtured from going out to fancy restaurants as a kid that helped develop my taste buds, and flavor profiles to identify a gourmet standard.

2.  How did you get started in food photography?

Back in 2007 I was attending The Art Institute of San Diego for Web Design and Interactive Media. In one of my elective classes I met a chef and proposed to make him a website for his food. At that time it wasn’t common for a Chef to showcase his food, but we set up the lights, backdrop, camera and got ready to take photos. It was at that moment that I fell in Love with how a photograph of food could make your mouth water and transport you to imagine how delicious the food tastes (But being the photographer..I got to taste the dishes after taking the picture). After seeing how the photos made a beautiful portfolio and gave the audience a story of inspiration from amazing dishes I was hooked and ready to continue my journey to share these experiences with the world.

3.  Do you consider yourself a food blogger?

Truthfully I never considered it. I just wanted to keep exploring new flavor designs with food for my Family and friends. It wasn’t till this last year that I started to fill in the details on my cooking experience to show people that you too can make extraordinary dishes at home for your loved ones.

4.  Do you follow any particular diets when creating your recipes?

I’ve tried a plethora of diets over the years and the only influence that it has had on my cooking was to either keep or remove meat or carbohydrates from the dish. The major factor in my cooking as of recent was to limit the amount of sodium. However I did pick up a new book called The Rave Diet that will be tailoring some of my new dishes. I’m getting older and I want to keep my blood pressure under control and lose some extra weight.

5.  Do you have a cookbook available for purchase?

Not yet. I’m working on gathering all of the pictures and recipes that I’ve made to date. But yes I’d like to publish a book in the next year that makes cooking fun and tasty for anyone to use.

6.  Your Mango Almond Milkshakes served with the curly fries look amazing. Are they low carb?

Mango Almond Milkshake

I wish it was low carb. I ended up buying this cool potato/vegetable peeler tool from Bed Bath and Beyond that you could twist your food into and it would make spiral shapes (An example would be zoodles, or curly fries). Well I love curly fries and this was my chance to make this at home. It also reminded me when I was a kid my Grandpa would get fries and milkshakes from In and Out burger. One day my parents told me about this melon called Pepino and when I found it at our local grocery store (Stater Bros) I was interested in making something interesting with the fruit. So two and two came together and the shake came out great, and the fries were perfect. I wasn’t happy at how expensive the melon was but the flavor made the shake silky smooth.

7.  What spices or seasonings do you mostly use?

For breakfast I usually stick with pepper, turmeric, garlic, some cinnamon. Lunch foods will have a bit more seasoning with paprika, kafta, mustard powder, coriander, cayenne pepper, mint, oregano, or five spice. For Dinner dishes I like to use sambal, garlic, onion powder, ghost chili powder, seasonings that make you warm from your mouth to your chest.

8.  Were any of your Instagram recipes created from what was on hand in the kitchen? If so, which ones?

A lot of them started from on hand ingredients (This is due to owning two and a half fridges), but the true inspiration comes from walking up and down the aisles in the supermarket, reading cook books, or watching cooking videos online. For example today’s dish Salmon, sweet potato on vegetable puree drizzled with whiskey butter may have started with the purchase of sweet potatoes. But the whiskey butter came from a combination of watching french cooking and a recommendation from The Whiskey Tribe (Daniel and Rex) of this whiskey called Elijah Craig. Now I’m not a bourbon drinker but they said that the notes of apple and oak were smooth and delicate. So I figure I’d add some cinnamon and shallots and do a slow reduction to top the potatoes and fish. My own spin off of the classic Bearnaise sauce with some comfort food feel to the dish.

9.  In your opinion, what ingredients should be in the pantry at all times?

For me it’s more of what should be in your fridge. My pantry is only filled with a few base items…rice, pasta, onions, potatoes, crackers. But my fridge is organized by vegetables to eat fresh or cook, meal prep containers of the leftovers from the dishes I cook for the family. You may see a beautiful picture, but I usually eat the same meal two of three days in a row out of tupperware. The rest of the fridge is jars of sauces, broth, salsa’s, meats and your basics of rice, beans, tortillas, fresh herbs, and condiments.

10. What is the funniest thing that ever happened in your cooking experiences?

On a few occasions I learned that sometimes we may plan for a dish to come out a certain way but turn out another way. My smoked duck looked so beautiful and smelled great but it got so dehydrated that it was like rubber. All those hours and it was like beef jerky..all I could do was laugh. Or there was this other time when I was learning to make Kebabs and I didn’t remove all the moisture from the meat. I went to cook them on the BBQ and half the meat fell off well it was half way successful.

For my last story that was so funny was when I just got my Vitamix. I decided to make a potato soup and instead of placing the chicken on the side I was like…why don’t I see what this mixer can do. So I put a piece of chicken into the blender with some of the soup and put the blender on high for a few minutes and it liquified it so much that you couldn’t even tell that there was chicken in it. I was stunned that the blender made my chicken disappear, it darkened the soup but you could not tell that it had any chicken whatsoever.

 Click on the Vitamix blender

below to order on


So bottom line I’ve now had over 30 years of cooking in the kitchen with family cooks, chef’s and countless hours reading and watching cooking videos. I’ve now come to the conclusion that whatever you make in the kitchen -Make it with Love and always Dare to cook Delicious.

Sausage and grits
Chipotle Sausage on Grits

My Four Favorite Recipes from Mateo J Designs

I’m from the South and love grits, so the Chipotle Sausage on Grits photo piqued my interest.

Stuffed Spinach Portabello Mushroom Burger

Mateo J Designs’ food photography or web design contact information:


Photo credits (for all of the photos shown in this blog post): Matthew Roybal, Mateo J Designs

Tofu Enchiladas on Orange Zested Beans

And I want to make that Tofu Enchiladas dish as well in spite of tofu not being my favorite food. Matthew’s food photography combined with his expertise at creating delicious recipes is enough to convince me to try every recipe on his website.

Do you like breakfast? I love to eat breakfast any time of the day. That last favorite recipe I listed, the mushroom burger, reminds me of Hamburger Steak with Mushrooms, a recipe I made for breakfast (good for lunch or dinner as well). It was made from leftover hamburgers.

My husband grills hamburgers and steaks (usually ribeye since we prefer it over other steaks) often. I learned that Matthew and have this in common: we eat leftovers. When he creates his recipes, he tends to do what I do – make way more than enough. A lot of Kitchen Southern Hospitality recipes were created from leftovers. 

Speaking of ribeye and mushrooms, did you know you can cook ribeye steak in a pressure cooker? Yep. Check it out:


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