California Dreamin’

The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards Executive Chef Matt Greco

By Kimberley Lovato

Chef Matt Greco of Wente Vineyards 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 excellent training and technique to the kitchen, as well as his passion and creativity to the plate, which California’s food-crazed masses adore.

“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.”

Born and raised in Texas, Greco trained in New York at the Culinary Institute of America. Following school, he was offered a job at Café Boulud, Daniel Boulud’s iconic restaurant in Manhattan, where spent four years learning and perfecting the art of French cuisine before assisting in the launch of Café Gray. Greco also worked as a sous chef at the prestigious restaurant, A Voce, for a year, then returned to Café Gray where he was appointed sous chef and played an integral role developing the menus and running the kitchen. Inspired by his Southern roots he launched the restaurant, Char No. 4 in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood where he lead the kitchen operations and launched the restaurant to great acclaim, earning 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? Wente vs. Boulud?

“They are two different goals and accomplishments of my career that I am very proud of,” said Greco. “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 owned and managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. The award-winning restaurant with its own chef’s garden focuses on seasonally driven ingredient prepared with honesty and integrity.

“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 it to your list— Wente has some awesome events including summer concerts on the vineyard (Sheryl Crow and John Fogerty are on the line up.

Live music, good wine, and Chef Greco’s cooking on a 130-year-old vineyard? I believe that’s what we call California Dreamin’.

The Foodie Five

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.

If you’d like to be a featured food, contact Fluent In Fabulous.

Kimberley Lovato is a Lowell Thomas Award winning writer whose travel and food articles have appeared in national and international magazines. She prefers to discover the city, and the world, one bite or sip at a time. Read more Foodie 5 posts on her blog www.fluentinfabulous.com and www.kimberleylovato.com