Cucinato Con Amore

By on July 19, 2017

Chef Matt ‘Bardo’ Lombardo, Bin 22

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Food is love. Food is family. Food is life. And most importantly for Chef Matt ‘Bardo’ Lombardo, food is an open door, an invitation into a warm room filled with your friends and family. As Bin 22’s executive chef, Bardo practices this ideology every day without exception. He is not only the youngest to hold the title of head chef in the Fine Dining Group, he is also completely self taught. The first thing one learns about this particular chef, though, is that the word “self” rarely makes it into the conversation. You’re more likely to hear things like “team,” “family” or “friends” when he talks about cooking at Bin 22.

Full disclosure: this author has worked at Bin since it opened and is wildly biased in favor of our newest chef, for good reason. Many a Jackson folk have spent some time donning a starchy black aprons, shlepping food from back of house to front of house. We know about the egos and the divide between the houses.

But at Bin, there is only one house—Our House—and it’s filled with mutual respect and love, a thing that is so unique in the service industry as to be damn near unheard of. Not a day goes by that customers don’t mention how well we all get along, a thing impossible to hide due to Bin’s open kitchen and fluid, unconventional serving methods. In that same vein, you will never see our chef hiding in the kitchen, frowning or throwing shade. Bardo is a happy guy who loves to feed people. And you taste it in the food. 

Ah, but what about the food? That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? When Bardo joined the Bin roughly a year ago, he was walking into a highly regarded, well-established Jackson eatery. A quaint restaurant where everyone has a favorite dish and is willing to throw a punch to protect its place on the menu. Any other new chef would rush in, rearrange and flex their muscles, make their presence known. And in some cases that tactic makes sense. But not for Bardo, or for a place like Bin 22. Instead, he asked questions, listened, tested and respected feedback. He understands that Bin was built by a great team and honoring that foundation was his main mission from day one.

Most importantly, however, he wasn’t afraid to take chances and try new things, even if it meant taking the shrimp off the menu (albeit temporarily). The creativity and playfulness of Bin’s menu is a reflection of his humble and open approach to cooking. There’s no ego attached, just damn good food made and served by people that love every dish that comes out of that tiny, hot box of a kitchen. 

Our little town in the middle of Wyoming is bursting at the seams with vibrant kitchens and niche culinary experiences, a thing that is a constant surprise to visitors and locals alike. Still, and though I am partial, I am also right, Bin 22 has something wonderful that this town has never seen before. That something is Matt Lombardo, a happy chef who makes amazing food, runs a tight ship and treats the entire world like family.

PJH: Walk us down your path to Bin 22.

Bardo: Basically I’ve grown up in this industry. I’ve always been a front of the house person and I love it. I love being out there with the customers, talking to people. That’s kind of my mentality in this hospitality industry; I’m geared to the front of the house. 

When I moved to Jackson, I had never cooked in my life professionally. I did some serving when I got here, a little catering, and then my friend Josh offered me a job at The Kitchen. Cooking has been my passion and hobby my entire life, but more the hosting, family style, never behind a line. The whole reason that I started cooking is because I wanted to get the full wrap of the restaurant, front to back. I knew what the servers did, but I wanted to see what the whole thing entailed. I was always looking at the back of the house, excited and wondering what was going on in there. That was the whole idea, to get better overall.

PJH: So you had no formal training period? 

Bardo: I have been cooking with my family since I can remember. Every family gathering, every event, every dinner, I was always cooking. My grandmother would be giving me lessons, my mom is a crazy good cook, super creative. It was always in my life but prior to The Kitchen, I had never had that experience of working the line. But the learning curve was pretty quick. I started on the frier and was on the grill within a month or so and was sous chef in less then a year. Shortly after that, Bin 22’s head chef Evan Hurle left and Gavin [Fine] offered me job.

PJH: What was your vision when you started? Has it changed over the year? 

Bardo: The first goal of mine was to step back and gain as much respect as I possibly could from everyone in this building. To walk in to some place and be aggressive isn’t how I feel it works. It’s a big family here, people that have been here forever. And I know that I needed to sit back and gain the trust of the team. My goal was to get you guys fired up under me and to make it sustainable and keep it excellent. I believe in the idea of enlightened hospitality. House first and crew first, the rest will follow. My vision for the food was pretty much the same, learn the food, learn the classics and grow from there. Overall the idea and vision of what we’ve created this year still stands.

PJH: What’s the best aspect of working at Bin 22?

Bardo: Walking in this door. Working with this team. It’s not like work for me. 

PJH: The worst part?

Bardo: Leaving. 

PJH: Who and what inspires you most? Why? 

Bardo: It’s a combination of my grandfather, grandmother and mom. My grandfather started the family business, Lombardos, in 1927. It started as a meat market in east Boston that became a four-generation family business. They started doing parties in the old bowling alley above the market, which gave birth to a busy catering and hospitality business. They had two locations until 2008, when he passed away and we closed the original location. My grandpa’s work ethic and generosity is a huge inspiration to me, as is my mom who taught me the freedom and the creativity of being in the kitchen. There are no rules. There’s no bible for cooking. She was always making something and trying it out. She never measures, it’s just ‘add this, add that.’ We cooked every night together after school. Whatever we had, we made it a meal. I am also inspired by my friends here who are chefs and bikers and skiers, people who are pursuing the dream of cooking. People that actual do love to cook and create. It’s so cool to see that! 

OK, final question—what is your favorite dish? And can we have the recipe?

Bardo: I’ll give it to you but you have to come by Bin 22 and ask. Come say hello!

Lightning round
PJH: Favorite Pandora station?

Bardo: Sinatra/Biggie hybrid

PJH: Pet peeve?

Bardo: When someone is unwilling to go halves on sandwiches, or any meal for that matter.

What animal would you be?

Bardo: Pterodactyl

Pick a super power.

Bardo: Unburnable hands

PJH: One person (dead or alive) on an island?

Bardo: Will Smith

PJH: Three wishes for the genie?

Bardo: A lifetime supply of red meat, every time I reach into my pocket there’s exact change, the ability to spawn any type of vehicle (dirt bike, helicopter, etc.) 

PJH: Boxers or briefs?

Bardo: Briefly wearing boxers

About Josi Stephens

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