Welcome Matt: Getting To Know Serenbe’s first Chef-In-Residence (and Garnie’s boyfriend) Matt Adolfi
Last year at our annual Les Dames d’Escoffier “Afternoon in the Country” event, Matt Adolfi, who was then the chef de cuisine at Bacchanalia, caught my daughter Garnie’s attention. And almost immediately, Anne Quatrano and I started texting like modern matchmakers.
Me: How can we get them back together?
Anne: I’ll bring him out for the Cluck Off!
They officially met at the Cluck Off—the multi-chef chicken battle we hosted late last year—over honey bourbon roasted chicken thighs. Then they talked. Then they went out soon after that. And again. And again. And again. In the following months, Matt ended his eight-year tenure at Bacchanalia and made the move to Serenbe, where he’s now the chef-in-residence, focused on creating lines for Serenbe Foods, new restaurant concepts and other culinary experiences.
A leap of faith in more ways than one, I asked Matt to describe what led him to move his career and life out into the country. Here’s what he said:
I love Bacchanalia and AQ for teaching me how to cook and I’ll always remember where my Southern roots started. I started as an intern and worked countless unpaid hours to get a sous chef position, I did that for a few years until I had the opportunity to be the baker for Star Provisions for about a year. Being the baker is the hardest job in that building, hands down, but is also one of the most gratifying. After being the baker, a position at Floataway Cafe had opened and I was the co-chef with a friend for about a year.
Floataway was a great learning experience, but was not the food I love. Bacchanalia was the cuisine where my passion started. So AQ gave me the opportunity to come back as a sous chef, where I remained for a couple years until she gave me the chef de cuisine role. After a couple years of chef de cuisine, I still wanted more and the executive chef position was held by my friend David Carson. It was his time to shine. So a chance to climb up the ladder wasn’t really there in the immediate future.
The restaurant industry can wear on you mentally and physically. Garnie saw my frustration and, as the problem solver she is, she created a way for me to come to Serenbe and have a role, which was win-win. I get to see her more and contribute to a remarkable place.
Since he’s been with us, Matt has already done the VIP brunch for May Day, a few pop-up dinners, dinner at the Art Farm and several cooking classes at the Bosch Experience Center, in addition to revamping the menu at the Blue-Eyed Daisy.
But what’s most delicious about him is that there’s no boasting to Matty at all. He’s amazingly talented and equally gracious and kind with an easy-going personality.
Garnie, on the other hand, is a type A personality all the way, but falling in love has softened her a bit. I’m not going to say she’s become laid-back—she’s still driven—but love has a way of getting in your system and reminding you that work’s not everything.
And it makes so much sense to me that my firstborn—the one most like Steve—would fall in love with someone who cooks and nourishes others for a living. There’s a real poetry in the history that’s repeating itself there.
Though he says he originally thought our little community was “some weird place in the middle of nothing where rich people lived,” Matt has, through Garnie’s eyes, seen what makes it special.
“I grew up in a small town outside Syracuse, so Serenbe brings that feeling of community back home for me,” he says. “I love to see how it changes and progresses everyday and how a place can change people’s lives so drastically. People want a community like Serenbe—the majority of them just don’t know it. It creates inspiration and blossoms amazing natural relationships with neighbors. It’s a place that lets you be connected with nature and community while being aesthetically gorgeous. I never want to leave. I’m truly blessed to be a part of such an amazing thing.”
I’m mindful of the uniqueness of his situation—that Matt has chosen to live and work in a place created by his girlfriend and her family. I imagine most men would consider this odd, but not our Matty: “I believe in the entire Serenbe mentality and I believe in Garnie’s family—I just want to be sure that our personal relationship and our work relationship can work together positively,” he says. “But as I’m sure everyone already knows, in both of our relationships Garnie is still the boss.”