Meet our Staff: Matt

A community-owned market is truly a team effort, where success depends on a mutual commitment to our shared cooperative values. We really owe it to the co-op staff for heeding this great undertaking! Their enthusiasm is plain to see through the great food and great service they provide for all who shop with us, and never has this rang truer since we opened the doors to our second store. Much like pruning an apple tree, it took hard work and patience to open a new location; a new “branch” grown from our same co-op roots. We are so grateful to all employees for unifying the Northampton and Easthampton stores under our “One Co-op, Two Stores” banner, but one department in particular deserves some special recognition for the unique responsibilities and additional challenges that come with preparing fresh, delicious fare on a daily basis.

Our Co-op Kitchen staff are passionate about food. They love serving all those great made-to-order meals, grab-and-go dishes, and freshly baked goods shoppers can enjoy from us any day of the week. Each and every item is scratch-made using only natural, high-quality ingredients, with local and organic highlighted as often as possible, and many options are even plant-based and non-GMO. A purchase from Prepared Foods means you’re eating well! The level of care and attention affixed to everything we serve in Prepared Foods will be clear from your very first bite, and it is thanks to people like Matt Sunderland that we are able to indulge our taste buds so spectacularly.

Matt Sunderland is the first-ever Director of Food Services for River Valley Co-op and a true master of his craft. Born and raised in Amherst, he has worked in the food and fine dining industry since the earliest days of his career. He discovered his talent for cooking at a young age, and in no time he began working up the ranks of the restaurant business. By the time he reached his 20s, he knew he wanted to get serious about cooking and decided to go to school for a degree that would help him pursue his dream.

Matt attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York, which is commonly ranked among the best schools in the world for culinary arts. Upon graduating, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work, taking his first management position as a sous chef at a local area restaurant. The more Matt cooked, the more he learned—and as his abilities increased, he would continue to grow professionally, too. He diversified his resumé by cooking for a number of unique eateries and other establishments, which taught him how to cater to different needs and discover new types of cuisine. He eventually joined a large South Deerfield restaurant, known for its impeccable reputation and great food, and worked there for eight years. Following that experience, he became a private chef—a gig that gave him the chance to develop a more personal touch to his cooking and reinforce his skills in fresh, new ways. He even operated a food truck for some time! With such a well-established resumé, we were thrilled to have Matt join our co-op. And, thanks to his perseverance in his newly created role, we have been better for it ever since! 

During his downtime, Matt enjoys camping with family and goes as often as possible. Having grown up taking these big outdoor trips himself, he wanted to create new memories and share that same enjoyment with his own son. One of his most amusing, yet fondest camping experiences occurred during a trip to Pennsylvania a few years ago where it rained every day. Funnier still, their campground was located next to a reservoir, making it a complete washout. Almost every day, the pair were running to the store to grab fresh clothes and dry towels. It was an experience that brought him closer to his son and has provided countless laughs ever since. The ability to find humor in life’s many quirks is such a positive quality, and certainly one we all hope to find in ourselves, too!

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