The rain feels unrelenting, the cold in the air a reminder that spring can in many ways be the unkindest of seasons, teasing the promise of brighter days and then pulling it back. Gray, dank, it is the kind of day that seemingly wants to embody the dark cloud of these times. Chef Matty Boudreau is simply not going to let that happen.
Stacks and stacks of meals are on their way from Boudreau’s Green Hill Kitchen & ’Que restaurant to Stony Brook University Hospital, brightening at least a few moments for workers engaged in their round-the-clock battle. Every week, such deliveries have made their way to hospitals in Stony Brook, or Southampton, or right around the corner in Green Hill Kitchen & ’Que’s hometown of Greenport. No charge, no request. This is the idea of “we’re all in this together” in action.
“We’ve been making a big effort to feed every healthcare worker on the East End,” Boudreau says. “As a mission statement, we said we wanted to be a part of everyone who’s fighting this thing on the ‘frontlines,’ as people say.
“Our owner, Christopher Mueller, has a very big heart, and he realized that the efforts we’re making to keep ourselves afloat would only be doubled by helping to feed the people who deserve a healthy meal,” he continues. “We’ve been getting people who call in with donations at the restaurant, and all that money does is help us feed healthcare workers. It costs us about $10 per meal to feed one worker, and that’s to deliver them a hot, fresh, nutritious and single-portioned meal.”
Green Hill Kitchen & ’Que has been dedicated to immersing itself in the East End community since, well, even before its doors opened this past winter. Being a part of everyday life for locals was part of the vision, but the evolution of that idea, and the rest of the Green Hill experience over the past month and a half, defies easy description.
“Is the word insanity a viable answer?” Boudreau offers, his sense of humor still very much intact despite long days and the dual pressures of keeping a relatively new business afloat while also meeting new challenges that arise daily. “On March 13, Friday night at 5 p.m., we lost 50% of our seating. On March 16, at 9 a.m. Monday morning, we lost all of our seating.”
As with many restaurants, takeout and delivery became an almost instant innovation. Yet Boudreau and the Green Hill team quickly took things in an additional new direction. “Faced with this craziness that’s in front of us, and being resourceful individuals at Green Hill, we opened up a grocery and provisions company that drives to all addresses on the East End.”
TP and BBQ. No, not your classic pairing. But necessity mothered the invention of Green Hill Provisions. The dining room has been converted into a modern-day mercantile, running side-by-side with Green Hill Kitchen & ’Que and offering the community access to products ranging from essential paper goods to frozen foods to cleaners and more.
“Along with selling toilet paper, we have fresh produce, BBQ brisket, local seafood, handmade pastas, as well as dry goods, gloves—you name it,” Boudreau says. “My better half, Lianne, and her friend Nicole actually came up with the idea of helping those who can’t leave the house, or for their own health-related interests shouldn’t leave the house. Nicole is about seven months pregnant with twins, so that put the idea in front of us.”
The concept quickly grew from the idea of driving around in a retrofitted van packed with goods to taking orders from a new website—mere concept to full-on business in a matter of days. “If you ever asked me before if I would be selling toilet paper as a profession, I would’ve told you that you’re nuts. But that’s what we’re doing.”
Of course, that’s not all. As a member of the Salty Rinse BBQ team, Boudreau traditionally left the East End each spring to compete in the famous Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and he has trophies from three consecutive years at Dan’s GrillHampton. As much as he loves competing and winning, what he loves more is the camaraderie, the sharing and sense of community that is inherent in true BBQ culture. And that, as much as the culinary creations is what, is what Boudreau and the team are delivering.
Whether it’s their to-go menu, or the full meal kits they delivered to people’s homes for the Easter holiday, or the “Quarantine Kits”—massive meals to feed multiple mouths, where you build your own feast with multiple proteins and sides, and then create your own plates at home from the bounty brought to your front stoop—or the wine and spirits that have become part of takeout culture.
“We’ve offered our entire wine list at 50% off, and we do have some gems hidden away on there, but in addition, on the Green Hill Provisions website we have $15 bottles of wine,” he notes. “Order more than one bottle is always my suggestion for wines to go. Cocktail-wise, Matty’s Margarita is the simplest recipe in the world: three parts tequila, one part agave, one part your favorite juice, and then one part lime juice. Put all those ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake really hard, pour it out over more ice, and drink heavily.”
And do it with others. Boudreau loves the idea not only of people enjoying the food and drink being offered, but of their getting together on Zoom and the like to share that dinner or toast.
“It’s still a challenging time, but it is giving people a sense of family,” Boudreau says. “Barbecue is about bringing people together, and hospitality is what our business is, but in this time that we’re being asked to socially distance, it is challenging. What we’ve been able to do to help bring people together and make people not forget the sense of what having a meal really is, and what sharing time with people you care for feels like.”