Chef Tony Matassa
Meet Chef Tony
"When I’m not filming Expert Overviews, I advise our article writers on basically everything grilling (and give them the old ‘red marker’ treatment — what would they do without me?), lend my hands to cook for charitable events, and… let’s just say, I’m a man with lots of fingers and surrounded by pies. When it involves telling the story behind great ingredients and awesome flavors, well… I’m always going to be the first one there and the last one to leave."
Trained Chef Meets Mad Scientist
We could think of no better way to describe Chef Tony Matassa, BBQGuys’ longtime jack of all trades (and master of many) whose expansive knowledge of food science is rivaled only by his passion for food itself. That last part isn’t too surprising — he literally grew up in his family’s Italian restaurants, standing on stools to stir simmering sauces from the time he was just a few years old. But when the Matassas closed their Baton Rouge-area eateries, college-aged Tony decided to continue building on his culinary background and blaze his own trail in the food industry.
He studied under various area chefs — most notably Chef Joey Distefano and French Chef Gerard Hemery, from whom he received hands-on training in old-school cooking techniques — and opened his own restaurant in the early 2000s. Coincidentally, that’s where Tony met BBQGuys founder and CEO Mike Hackley. They formed a fast friendship, and a few years later, Hackley asked the up-and-coming chef to produce a few recipe videos for his company’s grill retail website.
Stunned by the quality of grills, which reminded him of the commercial-grade equipment he used in professional kitchens, Tony hit the ground running and never looked back. In addition to transforming classic recipes into grilled dishes (have you seen what he did with New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp on the grill?), Tony became extremely involved with testing the ins and outs of every single outdoor living product we carry. He has put his scientific findings into dozens of product demonstration and testing videos over the years, helping raise the BBQGuys YouTube channel to new heights.
Tony still has a hand in those efforts, but these days he’s also a crucial part of our R&D team and is the food-science brain behind our Grillabilities® series. No matter what he’s working on, Tony brings relentless energy and a love for details to make viewers at home feel like they’re right there in the kitchen with a trained chef. Helping customers feel comfortable cooking and entertaining in their own backyard? There’s nothing mad about that science.
Popular Recipes From Chef Tony Matassa
Born to Grill With Chef Tony Matassa
What really gets me out of bed is my one true love: cooking amazing food and designing recipes. If food's there, I'm there — and you’ll recognize me in a heartbeat as the guy in the flour-smudged apron or the pristine chef’s whites. It’s not my fault; It’s mi familia, you see. What was I supposed to do? They opened a restaurant the month I was born! My great-grandparents had a grocery store, my relatives had a grocery store and a restaurant in New Orleans, and my parents had two restaurants. Growing up, I thought everyone went to a restaurant after school to eat their daily spaghetti and meatballs with Spumoni for dessert!
But I'll tell it to you straight: I show up every single day as if it might be my last day to cook and create. I want to learn from every ingredient or product and know the full story behind them. And every dish I plate is all about that story. Whether partnering as executive chef and occasional general manager of an upscale American eatery, picking up fresh skills under several great Louisiana chefs, fixing up twelve failing Louisiana restaurants under a crunch, or designing food programs for local businesses, everything I've done has been about preparing good meals for incredible people and making hungry people happy — I'll even go a long way to do it.
And then I found BBQGuys. Well, BBQGuys found me.
For ten years and counting, my partnership with BBQGuys has gone way past being the guy in front of (and behind) the screen. When I’m not filming Expert Overviews, I advise our article writers on basically everything grilling (and give them the old ‘red marker’ treatment — what would they do without me?), lend my hands to cook for charitable events, and… let’s just say, I’m a man with lots of fingers and surrounded by pies. When it involves telling the story behind great ingredients and awesome flavors, well… I’m always going to be the first one there and the last one to leave.
Q & A With Chef Tony Matassa
What BBQ flavors really drive your tastebuds wild?
That’s a tough one. I’ve got 4 or 5 in my head blowing me up mentally. So, I love something very loud, flavorwise — like a chimichurri, something explosive. But at the same time, a lot of people jump onto heat. But the problem with heat is you can’t taste anything else. But a satay or a chimichurri? You get 20-30 fresh ingredients in a marinade — basically, it’s a soup by then — that you’re basting into the meat. Plenty of heat, plenty of versatility! That’s my jam.
Could you tell us about your earliest food memory?
Spaghetti and meatballs! What were you expecting to hear? [Laughs.] The other thing I remember about food a lot was, well… that’d be my grandmother teaching me how to bake at her house, when I was very little. Too little to remember the teaching, but I do remember doing them with her. Real fond food memories right there.
Let’s say you’re cooking to impress. What’s your favorite BBQ dish?
You want the honest truth? Steak and rosemary potatoes. Stay with me now: every time someone eats one of my steaks, they’re blown away! I just don’t get it. All I do is a little coarse pepper, a little coarse salt and olive oil, and some clarified butter. Granted, I’ve probably done steaks a good 20,000 times. I guess when you do something often enough… That’s my go-to because it’s simple for me, but everyone seems to love it.
Everyone’s got their go-to grilling style. What’s yours?
Given the choice, I prefer charcoal — but it’s not the argument most people have. It’s just primal! Live fire! If I have the time or the choice, that is. But, more often than not, I’ll cook on gas. It’s just convenient. I’m a chef, I’m a busy man! The last thing I want to do when I come in is sit and make a fire. But when I’m in my element and left to my own devices, then it’s gonna be charcoal.
What’s your favorite style of BBQ?
You know, I don’t have a particular style I adhere to. You’d probably call mine commercial char-broil in general. But... to really think about it, I do love a great dry rub on an excellent cut of meat. Really draws a lot of excellent flavors together. Hmm. Guess that makes me a Texas man, eh?
Out of pork, poultry, beef, and game, which one would you pick to live without?
Really going for the jugular, aren’t you? [Laughs.] Huh. Guess I could deal with never eating pork again. Wouldn’t love it, but I could deal. See, with beef, there’s just too many things I couldn’t live without. Seafood, that’s my love. Chicken, there’s just too much I can do with it. I’d hate to give up bacon, but I’d figure it out if I had to. That turkey bacon stuff, maybe? Oh, I hope not.