Machete sharpens with community support
This piece started out so very basic: A popular underground supper club transfers to a brick-and-mortar. But after speaking with the enthusiastically interested parties, it became clear that there’s much more to the story. No matter how you cut it, it’s a story of friendship, vision and the glowing support of a community.
It all started at the former LaRue Restaurant in Greensboro, where chefs and couple Kevin Cottrell and Lydia Greene worked together to make creative and delicious dishes. There, they met a man who saw their talent and wanted to do something bigger and more special.
The popular dinner club launched over a year and a half ago after Tal Blevins, who’s originally from Greensboro, moved back to be closer to his family after 21 years of living in San Francisco. Blevins wanted to also make a social impact here but found himself in similar waters in the Gate City as the Golden Gate City. The tech writer and publisher missed the Modern American food scene of San Fran, until one day he tasted Cottrell and Greene’s food.
“Food and beverage have always been a passion,” Blevins said. “As long as it’s good, I’ll enjoy it, and when I tasted their food, it reminded me of what I was missing from San Francisco.”
Blevins said he was involved a bit in the underground restaurant scene with Lazy Bear, a two-star Michelin dinner party concept restaurant he invested in that started out as a pop-up.
“Their food, the plating and the creativity of it,” Blevins said. “It reminded me of those early days at Lazy Bear.”
Blevins approached Cottrell and Greene with the idea of starting a supper club in Greensboro, and Cottrell and Greene took the leap. Coming up with a name, Blevins said they always kept going back to Cottrell’s childhood story of playing in the woods with a machete.
“The food is inspired by childhood memories, modernized but evocative,” he explained. “It seemed perfect.”
Then, what started out as 12 people in his dining room, turned into a 20-person sit-down dinner, two times a month. Running out of space and creating quite the demand, the group started pondering the idea of an actual space. But it couldn’t have been possible without what Blevins and Cottrell agree was the support of local culinary leaders such as Crafted’s Kris Fuller, 1618’s Nick Wilson, Undercurrent’s Wes Wheeler, and the Norman family from Fainting Goat Spirits.
“Our dinners started out with members of the restaurant community and quickly grew from that,” Cottrell said. “We were all building each other up, and Kris Fuller was a huge help to us by looking for restaurant spaces with us and offering advice.”
During the process, Fuller joked that her Crafted-The Art of Street Food location would be perfect for their concept. But veiled in humor, often lies the truth. And one day, Fuller’s joke was a true offer. After reimagining her restaurants and her family’s time commitment, the restaurateur decided it was time to close Street Food, and she suggested the group open Machete at her spot located at 600 Battleground Ave. in downtown Greensboro. Fuller said it was “love at first bite,” and she offered to help in any way she could.
“We met several times over the course of a year, and then it’s as if the stars aligned,” she said. “Mom and I needed some extra time to focus on family and Tal, Kevin and Lydia still needed a space, so here we are. Crafted-the Art of Street Food has had great success over the years, and so to be able to pass the torch on and have such great food continue in the space we built just makes my heart warm.”
Much of the Street Food staff will be absorbed in other Crafted locations, but Machete will hire them back. Cottrell said he’ll take on the role of executive chef, while Greene will act as chef de cuisine. Andy Schools will curate the cocktail program that Cottrell said, “will be simple and refined, where the ingredients shine.”
With an opening slated for early 2020, possibly February, Machete will offer a full-service Tuesday through Saturday dinner menu, an a la carte menu similar to their Machete pop-ups, and once a month community table dinners on Sunday that will bring back memories of the burgeoning supper club days. The cuisine will be modern American, inspired by the food they’ve been serving for almost two years. “We will be fine dining,” Cottrell said. “But we won’t be white-tablecloth. We don’t want to come off as pretentious at all. We want people to feel comfortable in the first five minutes.”
“A rising tide is only going to lift all ships,” Blevins said. “And this really is about the community’s support. We want to build a food culture here in the Triad. We’ve been able to develop great friendships with the culinary community here, and we know they get it. We don’t really have the restaurant concentration here to even have to be competitive. We all have the opportunity if we can all work together to create something special, be collaborative, recommend each other, enhance one another and be a community. It can be so powerful.”
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.
Machete will be located at 600 Battleground Ave., Greensboro. If you’re interested in job opportunities or would like to be added to the email list, visit machetegso.com. Expected opening: February 2020.