Chef Matt Greco Had to Come to NYC to Find His Inner Texan
[One of our first feature articles from December 2009, this piece profiled Matt Greco, who was then chef of Char No 4 in Brooklyn. Matt’s moved on to Wente Vineyards in Northern California, but the kitchen at Char—under the leadership of Chef Scott Damboise—remains as good as ever.]
At some level, menus are autobiographies. Scan a chef’s current offerings, and you’ll find clues about where he’s lived, who he’s worked for, and the road he took to get where he is today. Put another way: who chefs are on the plate reflects who they are in life.
Matt Greco has been the chef at Char No 4, the refined barbecue restaurant on Brooklyn, NY’s burgeoning Smith Street strip, since the joint opened in fall 2008. How he got there is a story of self-discovery that speaks to this fundamental truth.
Greco grew up living a double life in and around Houston, Texas, in the wildly different homes of his divorced parents. Living with his mother in the suburbs of Houston, in the affluent area near NASA, Greco discovered a Texas that non-Texans rarely key into, virtually indistinguishable from other American suburbs. In Greco’s community, the stereotypical Texan–the modern-day cowboy of pop culture and presidential politics–was a reviled stereotype. When comedian Jeff Foxworthy came on the scene, he and his friends all hated him on sight.
But on weekends with his dad, Greco lived that “other” Texas life. His father, a contractor by trade, was a weekend cowpoke who participated in small-circuit rodeos and pushed the same hobbies on his son, though young Matt didn’t talk about his adventures when Monday rolled around. “My friends would have made fun of me if they knew on my weekends I was riding horses or roping,” he says. Another point of distinction between Greco’s two homes: Where his mother was an accomplished home cook who favored sophisticated cookery (her apricot-glazed Cornish hen recipe was published in Martha Stewart Living), on Sundays, he and his dad built a big pit and barbecued.