Chef Matt O’Neil


When Matt O’Neil opened Ledger in Salem in 2017, he was not a newcomer to the North Shore culinary scene. Raised in Swampscott, O’Neil spent his childhood in the area, and launched his career as a chef in nearby Martha’s Vineyard, staying around Boston as he continued to garner experience and knowledge in the food and beverage industry. With a decade under his belt at O’Neil’s Lynn flagship, The Blue Ox, opening Ledger Restaurant & Bar in Salem was very much a natural move for O’Neil, and the latest hallmark of his deep roots and respected role in the scene.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, O’Neil started his career in Martha’s Vineyard at the prestigious Vineyard Golf Club, working alongside Mark Chaput. He then came back from the island to Boston, continuing to learn alongside some of the best chefs in Massachusetts, including Anthony Caturano at Prezza and Copia, and Barbara Lynch at No. 9 Park and The Butcher Shop.

In 2009, when the opportunity arose to open The Blue Ox, O’Neil jumped at the chance. Having worked in some of Boston’s best kitchens, O’Neil saw a lack of this caliber of cuisine in the North Shore, and was excited to fill the void. A casual American restaurant, The Blue Ox still focuses on scratch-made ingredients and locally sourced produce, serving traditional food with sophisticated techniques.

The restaurant won a Best of Boston title from Boston Magazine within its first year, taking the 2009 “Best New Restaurant, North” title. The Sin Burger at Blue Ox secured O’Neil the reigning title of Boston Magazine’s “Battle of the Burger” champion from 2013-2015 – an accolade that brought him to Miami to compete in South Beach Wine & Food Festival. This competitive feature runs strong through O’Neil’s culinary repertoire, as he’s also spent time as ESPN’s “Cooking Coach”, and once competed on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay.

In late 2017 O’Neil opened Ledger in the historic Salem Savings Bank building, which dates back to 1818. Today, the building maintains its grand stature, but serves a new purpose; Ledger combines historic techniques with modern elegance in a warm, convivial atmosphere in the heart of downtown Salem. The menu is founded in progressive New England fare, and a custom wood-fired grill allows O’Neil’s love of smoking foods a chance to have a prominent role on the menu. Constantly changing the menu alongside Ledger Executive Chef, Daniel Gursha also allows O’Neil to focus on eating local and seasonal fare, highlighting what is native to New England and it’s distinct seasons.

When he’s not onsite at one of his North Shore restaurants, O’Neil can be found somewhere between a baseball field and the snowy New England mountains, spending time with his wife Joanna and their two kids, Miles and Mirabel. Finding sports as an outlet to connect with people and help support important causes close to his heart, O’Neil is both a youth football and little league baseball coach, as well as an avid cyclist, regularly riding to raise money for cancer, ALS, and Parkinson’s research, as well as No Kid Hungry.