Story by Pamela A. Keene
Chef Matt Albertario’s culinary journey began with a home economics class in high school.
“I was a really bad student, so I took a home-ec class as an elective, basically a coasting class,” says Albertario, who is now the executive chef at Hoschton’s Reunion County Club and Canton’s Woodmont Country Club. “It turned out that I was really good at it.”
While still in high school, Albertario took a job at a neighborhood pizza shop.
“It was right down the street from our house in a suburb of Chicago and it was close enough to walk to, plus I has my first taste of the restaurant business because I did a little bit of everything there,” he says. “I found out that I really liked the business and the pressure. I’d show up at 3 p.m. and the next time I looked at the clock, it was 11 p.m. and time to close. The time went so fast and I really enjoyed myself.”
A two-year associate degree fropm a Chicago-area culinary college put him on the path to practical knowledge with positions at golf courses in Glenview, Illinois, as a line and banquet cook as his day job; he also worked at a private country club at night. Soon, Albertario was made an executive sous chef, second in command in the kitchen and overseeing all food preparation and cooking.
“I was literally thrown into the fire, but for me, experience outweighs formal education every time.”
Albertario’s experience and reputation led him to help open a restaurant in the north Chicago suburbs, and eventually brought him to Georgia, where he opened the Dunwoody/Perimeter Mall location of Wildfire Restaurant in 2006. When his former boss joined Ray’s Restaurant Group, Albertario became Chef de Cuisine, or executive chef, at Ray’s on the River and Ray’s Killer Creek. He and his wife Michelle live in Canton; she is a manager for Starbucks.
After answering an advertisement for a senior executive chef for John Wieland Homes, he joined the staff at Reunion and Woodmont in early 2015. The past year has been a whirlwind of activity, from creating all new seasonal menus for both clubs, redesigning menus, developing special events such as wine dinners and overseeing the renovation and redesign of Reunion’s kitchen and dining room, The 19th Hole Bar and Grill.
“I have been able to put my name and stamp on the menus, build relationships with all of our vendors, including many local farms where we purchase our seasonal ingredients, and develop a from-scratch kitchen where we make everything right here,” he says. “We’ve become a diverse place for people to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.”
The breakfast menu includes fresh-made omelets, breakfast sandwiches and fruit. A full complement of salads, sandwiches — including hand-pattied burgers — on several choices of bread, plus nearly a dozen hand-crafted snacks and appetizers is available from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
“We also offer a choice of several entrees after 4 p.m. each day and these change fairly regularly,” Albertario says. “Depending on the local seasonal items available, these rotate regularly.”
Items that are popular include everything-encrusted salmon with saffron insalata and red pepper vinaigrette, and reverse-seared beef tenderloin with wild mushroom and fava bean succotash. The grilled watermelon salad is often on the summer menu.
Chef Albertario also creates regular special dining events, such as his four- to five-course monthly wine dinners, with each course matched with the appropriate wine. Easter and Mother’s Day brunch buffets are on the boards this year and many holidays warrant featured menu items. He says that The 19th Hole will be offering additional dining concepts this year, including a date night concept with different courses, different wines and white-tablecloth dining. Reunion is open seven days a week for the public.
“We’re a neighborhood dining option and welcome the public to come and join us for breakfast, lunch or dinner,” Albertario says. “Come by and experience all that we have to offer. The atmosphere is upscale casual, our menu is local and fresh, and there’s always something special, fresh and new.”
For more information and the most current menu items and specials, visit ReunionGolfClub.com.