Chef Matt Greco might be from Texas, and spent a decade sharpening his culinary chops in New York’s best restaurants, but San Francisco’s got him now---and we couldn’t be happier.
As the head chef at the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards in Livermore’s often overlooked wine country, he brings his knife sharp training and mad skills to the kitchen, as well as a passion and creativity to the plate that makes Californians swoon.
“I love California because of the great agriculture and how people take a lot of pride in what they are producing,” said Greco. “Plus you can’t beat the weather.”
Greco trained in New York City at the Culinary Institute of America. Following school, he was offered a job at Café Boulud, Daniel Boulud's iconic restaurant in Manhattan, where he spent four years learning and perfecting the art of French cooking before assisting in the launch of Café Gray (no closed in New York). Inspired by his Southern roots he opened the restaurant, Char No. 4 in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood where he lead the kitchen operations and heart the restaurant a spot in New York Magazine’s ‘Top Ten Best New Restaurants 2009 and Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand 2009-12.
From New York’s upper culinary echelons to a 130-year-old family run vineyard in Livermore seems like a big switch, doesn't it? Wente vs. Boulud? What gives?
“They are two different dreams and accomplishments in my career that I am very proud of,” said Grego. “I have always been extremely influenced by the Bay Area food scene.”
The Wente Vineyards were founded 130 years ago and is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery and is still managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. The award-winning restaurant, complete with its own chef’s garden, focuses on seasonally driven ingredients that pair well with, what else, wine and lifestyle.
“I like working for Wente because they allow and encourage me to take the sustainability aspect as far as I can take it,” said Greco. “I love that the restaurant has its own garden and am excited to be sourcing unique local products and taking full advantage of California’s bounty,”
If you haven’t visited Wente Vineyards, or the Livermore Valley, then you are missing out on Northeren California’s “other” wine country.
This summer, add this destination to your list--- Wente has some awesome events including concerts on the vineyard, like Sheryl Crow and John Fogerty who are on the line up.
Live music, good wine, summer sunshine, and Chef Greco’s cooking on a 130-year-old vineyard? I believe that’s what we on the West Coast call California Dreamin’.
The Foodie 5
1. What is your favorite childhood food memory?
My favorite childhood food memory is of picking butter beans and green beans in my Sicilian Grandmother’s organic vegetable garden. I sat on the back porch and cleaned whole five gallon buckets at a time.
2) If you could cook in the kitchen of anyone, who would it be and why?
I am fortunate to have worked for everyone I wanted to work for (Daniel Boulud, Gray Kunz, and Andrew Carmellini), but I wish I had worked at the Salt Lick in Texas when I had the chance.
3) No one is looking. What’s your secret food fetish?
My son’s bright pink and white frosting covered animal cookies with sprinkles. Or Velvetta and rotel queso dip. Don’t forget the cilantro and onions!
4) Fill in the blanks: I'd like to see more of _____________on restaurant menus, and please for the love of figs, go easy on ________as an ingredient.
I’d like to see more of the herb savory on menus, and go easy on charcoal as an ingredient. I believe charcoal is meant to be cooked with, not eaten.
5) Congratulations! You have carte blanche to eat and drink anywhere in the world. Where you go and why?
I would choose to go to Paris--I've never been, and there is so much culinary history there.
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