Raised in the small upstate New York town of New Hartford, Matt began his culinary training at a very young age. “Food was always a part of my life” Being of Italian and Lebanese heritage Matthew grew up with food — “My mother and grandmothers were always feeding me, and having me try new things.”
As a teenager Matthew got his start in the food industry making Italian pastries, cookies, and cakes at Café CaNole, where he was taken under the wing of Dean and Jason Nole, brothers and chef/owners of the Italian bakery & bistro. It was during this time that Matthew began to formally develop his culinary skills, and realized cooking was his calling. Upon graduating High School Matthew decided to postpone Culinary School to attend SUNY Geneseo where he received his degree in Business Administration. “Opening and running my own restaurant was my dream and I wanted to make sure that I would be able to understand the business aspect as well.”
During his summers and vacations from college, Matthew continued to work at Café CaNole where he advanced from baking and pastry to working on the hot line for lunch and dinner service. During this time Matt honed his skills in preparation for attending culinary school.
After graduating from college, Matthew enrolled in the fall semester at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. It was during this time that Matthew was introduced to Marc Orfaly as he completed his culinary externship at Pigalle Restaurant in Boston.
Matthew returned to the CIA after his externship where he graduated Valedictorian. In January of 2005 Matthew moved to Boston where he was reunited with Marc Orfaly at Pigalle. Matthew continued to work side by side with Chef Orfaly, and in the Summer of 2005 was offered the head chef position at Marc Orfaly’s new Italian Restaurant Marco. In preparation and training for the new position Matthew apprenticed at Mario Batali’s Lupa Restaurant in New York City where he began to learn the art of salumi. After his stay in New York, Matthew departed for Italy where he worked at Il Ricchi in Tuscany and Il Rossilino in Pienza to further his knowledge of the “simple but true” philosophy of regional Italian cooking.
After his Italian adventures, Matthew returned as opening chef di cuisine of Marco Restaurant in Boston, where he was able to put his expansive understanding of Italian cooking to work.
In 2008, Matthew was invited to work with Chef Mark Ladner at Del Posto Restaurant in New York City. Del Posto is the flagship restaurant of Batali and Bastianich Hospitality group, and opened in 2005. Although Matthew began his time with Chef Ladner as a sous chef, he was made Chef di Cuisine after a short two years. During Matthew’s tenure at Del Posto, the restaurant has received a coveted four-star review from the New York Times, and the Relais & Chateaux distinction.
While advancing amongst the ranks at Del Posto, Matthew was introduced to Del Posto Investor Rob Shawger on a BBQ trip to Hill Country Texas to taste and sample the best BBQ of the State. They quickly became friends over their common bond of food and drink and continued to BBQ in their spare time. The hobby quickly turned into a passion, and Matthew and Rob began competing in local BBQ Competitions in their spare time that eventually led them to the World Series of BBQ Competition Memphis in May. There, Rob and Matthew placed 1st in Poultry and 2nd in Whole Hog during their very first appearance.
Soon after, Rob and Matt took the momentum of their win back to New York City where they opened Pig Beach BBQ as a summer pop up in 2015. As the pop up began to take off, Matt quickly realized he was on to something and made the decision to leave Del Posto in spring of 2016 to focus entirely on BBQ. Pig Beach BBQ officially opened as a permanent restaurant in 2016 and in no time, gained prestigious accolades including Eater’s “Best Burger” in 2016 and 2nd Place for both “Judges Choice” & “People’s Choice” at the 2016 New York City Wine & Food Festival’s event, Burger Bash.
With the success of Pig Beach in Brooklyn, Matthew and Rob challenged themselves to incorporate the art of smoking ingredients into traditional and less-traditional BBQ foods, conceptualizing the idea behind Pig Bleecker. Pig Bleecker opened in Greenwich Village in New York City in the beginning of 2017 and serves its patrons classic BBQ and comfort food with a smoky twist.
Matt continues to serve as Executive Chef and Owner of both Pig Beach and Pig Bleecker and has plans to expand the smoke-centric brand. He, his wife, Meghan and their son, Luke, reside in New York City.
I love the power of food, whether it is a piece of chocolate when you are sad or a bowl of chicken soup when you are sick, food has that unique ability to put a smile on someone’s face, and brighten one’s day!