Matthew Katakis

Pitmaster and cofounder of Butcher Bar, which won both awards at the 2016 Backyard BBQ was born and raised in Astoria, this Queens native’s main passion is food. Having travelled the world in the pursuit of great tasting food among other things, his mission was to bring it all back to his hood. He started his first restaurant Pita Pan in 2003, which has become a classic, offering the tastiest and ...READ MORE

Pitmaster and cofounder of Butcher Bar, which won both awards at the 2016 Backyard BBQ was born and raised in Astoria, this Queens native’s main passion is food. Having travelled the world in the pursuit of great tasting food among other things, his mission was to bring it all back to his hood. He started his first restaurant Pita Pan in 2003, which has become a classic, offering the tastiest and freshest Greek cuisine this side of the Atlantic. Butcher Bar’s inspiration came from a trip to Morocco, where he dined at several restaurant/butcher shops, which guaranteed that the meat specialties prepared there where extremely fresh. He also wanted to expand his endeavors to the purveyor side and supply his restaurants with good meat. Grass-fed beef and pasture raised animals were the only kind he wanted to dine on and wanted to share this with his friends and family in Astoria. He brought up his idea to his then manager of Pita Pan, Kathy and they began their journey of awareness and education. A space became available across the street from Pita Pan, and he began to design his new concept. He chose to do Smokehouse BBQ because it was not being represented properly in Astoria, and wanted a way to showcase the meat. Organic and natural vegetables and meat locally sourced from sustainable minded purveyors and farms.

He is also co-owner in Slice Astoria, a local pizza joint and Blend Astoria, the third unit of the Blend Brand from Long Island City. Butcher Bar LES just opened at 146 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

His future plans include expanding out of the state with his various concepts and has begun a second career as an author. A cook book is in store in the future!

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More about Matthew Katakis
What is your favorite restaurant in NYC?BUTCHER BAR!What is your ultimate meal?SMOKED BBQWhat three things are always in your pantry?Beans, Rice and Paprika!If you weren't a chef, what would you be?A rock star!What is the best advice you have ever been given, and from whom? "Do what you love" from my Mother.
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One of my favorite dishes that I love to cook is Pork Tenderloin with Celery Avgolemono. The first time I tasted this was at my grandparents’ house in Maleme, Crete. My “GiaGia” would make this dish for a holiday or special occasion like one of my cousin’s name days. My mom would also cook it for dinner or family gatherings. It’s a hearty dish and is great for a winter night.
A little bit of history on this dish. The Cretan diet varies and encompasses many types of seafood, (sea urchin is another one of my favorite things to indulge on in Crete) and many local roots, weeds (horta, another favorite) and livestock such as chickens, sheep, goats and pigs. Of all the animals the pig's role is symbiotic and aids the environment. Pigs eat anything, and leftovers from the family’s table became compost or pig feed, thus making them cheap to maintain. The slaughter of the pig was always reserved for a celebration or festive occasion.
This dish is one of the most unusual traditional dishes in Crete’s menu and also possibly one of the smelliest! The reason is the celery. Not the standarcd celery you might think, but one that grows wild. Cretan celery grows wild and has a spicier taste, and a more pungent aroma than the standard “Pascal” celery found here in local super markets. You’ll either love it or hate it. This variety of celery looks a lot like large-leafed parsley. It’s dark green and very leafy. When this variety of celery is boiling away in the pot its aroma is as equally unappetizing as that of cabbage or cauliflower. Its base consists of a hard thick white root which is edible, even tastier than the stalks and leaves. Greek celery is often added to soups; it's an absolute must in fasolada. It is usually sold in small bunches as a herb, but is also available in the tall shrub-like form. In Crete, the Pascal variety is often sold in the imported produce section of the supermarket (grown in Holland), and is referred to as σέλερι (pronounced 'celery'), but the Greek variety is always called σέλινο (pronounced 'selino').

The coastal resort town of Paleohora is located in the district known as Selino. As it is the main town in the area, it can be called the capital of Selino, prompting a school student to answer 'maintano' (parsley) when he was asked what the capital of Selino was...
This meal was a great success on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The meat and celery are cooked separately, eventually being combined in an egg-and-lemon sauce. The meat was very well cooked, the way Cretans usually like their meat, practically falling off the bone. Celery is quite resilient to water and needs a long cooking time to become tender enough to eat without that stalky woody taste that tough vegetables can have. It was boiled until it softened, without losing its crunchiness. The combination of heavy pork meat with the pungent selino herb creates an acquired taste. For this reason, many cooks have replaced the celery with a less pungent sweeter tasting wild green like stamnagathi, while the pork is replaced with lamb or goat. The same techniques apply in the cooking. Pork and celery can also be cooked in tomato instead of the traditional egg and lemon sauce that pork and celery is cooked in, but that's a question of personal taste.
Pork and celery hotpot constituted our Christmas meal for this year, cooked in my kitchen with the help of Mr Organically Cooked and a friendly neighbour. It gave me a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet on what is usually a busy day for the household cook. And if you're wondering why I'm still harping on about Christmas, in Greece, it hasn't ended: the last day of the Christmas period is Epiphany on the 6th of January, which - to confuse matters even further - is the official Christmas Day of the Eastern Orthodox Church which goes by the Julian calendar, instead of the Georgian calendar which is used to organise the year of the world calendar; the Greek Orthodox church uses the Julian calendar to calculate Easter Day, and the Georgian Calendar for all other festivals.

You need:
a kilo of celery, washed well and cut into small pieces; leaves, stalks and roots included - you may use other greens instead
a kilo of pork, trimmed of fat, and cut into small chunks - lamb or goat can replace the pork
1/2-1 cup olive oil (depending on how Cretan you feel)
2 large onions chopped small
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced finely (optional)
a glass of wine
salt and pepper
the juice of two large lemons
2 eggs

Boil the celery till it is soft and tender. The stalks may still be crispy, but the celery must be soft enough to be palatably edible - wild celery has a rather strong taste. Celery tends to be bulky, so use a large pot of water to boil it in. While this is happening, in another pot, pour in the oil, cook the onions (and garlic, if using), then add the pork chunks and brown on a high heat. Season with salt and pepper, and add the wine and just enough water to cover the meat. Place the lid on the pot and let the meat simmer away until it is cooked to your liking. We let the pork cook for over 90 minutes, adding water to the pot as it was needed to stop the meat from sticking to the bottom.

When the celery is ready, drain it well and add it to the cooked pork. Combine the celery and pork, and let it stew away for another 15 minutes for the flavours to blend. While this is happening, beat the eggs and lemon juice together in a bowl, to form a frothy yellow well-blended liquid. Turn off the cooker and remove the meat from the heat. Pour a small ladle full of the meat stock into the egg and lemon and stir it in well. You need to be quick in your movements here, because the egg will 'cook' if hot liquid is poured onto it. Continue to do this until enough meat stock has been blended into the egg and lemon mixture to make a well-blended soup-like liquid. Carefully pour this onto the meat and celery, and shake the pot to make sure it distributes evenly. Allow the flavours to blend a little before serving.
Pork and celery in this lemony sauce is one of those stomach-friendly meals that are very beneficial for those who have been fasting, as custom dictates for the forty days before Christmas. A good alternative to egg and lemon sauce in the pork and celery is to serve the sauce as a thick dressing; serve the cooked pork and celery and let your guests decide if they want to dress it with the egg and lemon sauce.

• ½ pound pork (shoulder preferably) cut to egg size portions
• 1 bunch of celery (cut to medium size sticks and boiled for 5 minutes)
• 1 medium size onion (diced)
• Salt and pepper (to taste)
• The juice of 1 lemon
• 1/3 cup of olive oil
• I tbsp. of tomato purée’ (paste)
• 1/3 cup white wine
• 1 cup of water

Now, let’s say here that in Cretan traditional cooking, this kind of meal it can take up to 1 ½ hour to prepare. But we can easily make this in 20-25min, by using a cast iron cookware
Heat the pan, add the oil and let it be heated. Add the onion let soften and then add the meat. Brown well on all sides on medium to high heat. When to that point add the wine leaving the pan uncovered (for the alcohol and wine’s tangines to evaporate).
Reduce the heat to medium –slow and add the celery , salt pepper and the( dissolved in water) tomato purée. Cover the pan and simmer for approximately 15 minutes. To that point, add the lemon juice cover, cook for another minute or two, and is all done!!!!
I usually serve it with a dollop of mashed potato, which absorbs the superb-tangine sauce and matches perfectly. But it works out the same well with rice, or jacked potatoes. My kids love to have it with hash browns! For the more adventurous I will suggest to have it with cracked wheat pillaf. I hope you enjoy it as much as my kids do.