Eddie and Chystal Gaunt, new owners of Matthew’s Steakhouse

The couple has introduced a new menu and has increased its staff to allow more customers to experience the downtown Winter Garden restaurant.

Eddie and Chystal Gaunt are presenting an all-new menu at Matthew’s Steakhouse.
Eddie and Chystal Gaunt are presenting an all-new menu at Matthew’s Steakhouse.
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Eddie Gaunt has come a long way since his days as a teenager stretching pizzas for Domino’s. He and his wife, Chystal, are the new owners of Matthew’s Steakhouse, an upscale, reservation-only restaurant in downtown Winter Garden.

The Gaunts purchased the steakhouse from Horst and Gabi Winter and son Matthew Winter at the end of March, revamped the menu to fit Eddie Gaunt’s French and Italian cooking background, and increased the staff.

Changes were made to the entire menu — except the steaks, he said.

It’s a legacy restaurant, Eddie Gaunt said, so he and Chystal want to honor that legacy by providing top-tier food and ingredients in an elegant setting — which keeps its loyal customers coming back.

“We’re not pretentious,” Eddie Gaunt said. “This is you coming to my home to have a meal and being taken care of in somebody’s home with all the ambiance and bells and whistles of an upscale steakhouse. It’s not a loud place; there are no TVs. … You can have a nice conversation over dinner.

“This is a throwback downtown, this is a throwback restaurant,” he said.

Eddie Gaunt is a chef and a sommelier, and he takes pride in the interesting, small-release wines, as well as the quality of meat, he offers diners. He buys local whenever possible — from the cuts of meat to the fruits and vegetables.


Eddie Gaunt estimates he had 52 jobs before he was 18.

“I could just never find that thing that scratched that itch for me,” he said. “I remember getting my first serving job. I felt like I was working for myself. … I could make great money. I fell in love with that concept. I became really good at it.”

When he was 18, he was serving at Olive Garden. When the kitchen was short one night, he said, he was asked to work the sauté line. He did this periodically until he was asked to go into management.

He was going through the police academy at the time and had a decision to make. He took the general manager’s position, becoming the youngest in the Darden Restaurants company at the age of 21.

Eddie Gaunt said he piloted Olive Garden’s culinary program that sent employees to Italy to learn about wine partners.

“It’s just fun stuff,” he said. “That really sparked my interest in food, and I became a foodie at that point. I was like a sponge and wanted to absorb.”

By the late 2000s, he owned three restaurants in Orlando, Ocala and St. Cloud.

Eddie Gaunt said he has experienced several health crises — diabetes, a kidney-pancreas transplant and cancer — and cooking has always been a way for him to decompress.

“If I’m stressed out, I’m cooking,” he said. “It’s medicinal for me. … It’s my go-to place. I just love it. I’ve always been this way.”

Fresh and quality food have been key to his health.

“I always consider myself a Whole Foods or Fresh Market shopper,” he said. “I just like finer food, and I’m the same way in the restaurant.”


During the pandemic two years ago, the Gaunts bought a recreational vehicle and headed for Yellowstone National Park.

“We zigzagged to Washington and stayed two to three weeks at a time, taking in the local cuisine,” Eddie Gaunt said. “I got a lot of cool recipes on my travels. I made food, a lot of food in the RV, and re-created some things we got along the way.”

“That was the best year of my life,” Chystal Gaunt said. “Everywhere we went, every little town we went to, we’d end up eating someplace, consider settling there and feeding good people.”

But no place compared to Florida, and the family found its way back to Winter Garden and in search of a restaurant for sale.

After just a few days of looking, they discovered Matthew’s Steakhouse was on the market. The sale was official March 29.

It’s important to the Gaunts to maintain an ambience at Matthew’s Steakhouse.

Steaks are hand-cut daily to ensure the freshest meals at the restaurant.

“It has the feel on the exterior of a corporate restaurant or a sophisticated restaurant, but the overall feel should be warm and inviting,” Eddie Gaunt said. “We like to get to know people by name. We like to celebrate with them — birthdays, celebrations, special occasions. We had a couple last night, he ordered flowers to be on the table before they arrived.”

The owners said they are trying to make the restaurant more approachable. While reservations still are required, the Gaunts have added more staff to cut down on wait times. Where the restaurant once had an eight-week lead time, it’s more like two now, they said.

The steakhouse seats 62 and on a busy day will accommodate 80 or 90 guests. The dinner-only restaurant is open six days a week and closed Mondays.

“We’re trying to get that second serving time around 7:30 or 8 o’clock,” Eddie Gaunt said.

When the Gaunts bought the restaurant, they vowed never to compromise quality. Fish is offered only when it’s fresh. All meat is hand-cut the same day, so it is “the pinnacle of freshness,” Eddie Gaunt said. “We stand behind our meat, prime angus beef, aged. If it’s not to the standard (it’s declined). … I’m meticulous about what I serve to my guests. I would rather have a more limited menu.”

You won’t find a fryer or walk-in freezer at Matthew’s Steakhouse. A college dormitory-sized freezer is there only for the gelato. All meals are made from scratch, and guests with different dietary needs are accommodated when possible.

“It’s easy to do gluten free here, and we’re conscious of shellfish allergies,” Eddie Gaunt said.

The owners will soon add a dinner salad with protein options.

Eddie Gaunt said his high standards and consistency attract quality employees, and his workers are like family.

“It’s important they have something to aspire to … and they all have goals here,” he said. “They all have big challenges ahead. They have to be able to run this here without me here. … I think a person loses themselves if they don’t aspire to have something.”

Eddie Gaunt would like to one day own a vineyard in Italy, spending six months a year there and six months here. But for now, he and Chystal are putting all their efforts into their new local venture.

“This is a Winter Garden legacy restaurant, and from that perspective I owe it to the community to provide the best I can do,” Eddie Gaunt said. “And that’s what we intend to do every day.”


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