- Associated Press - Saturday, June 3, 2017

HOUMA, La. (AP) - At Milano restaurant in Houma, the top chef doesn’t just cook the food, he grows it, too.

Matt Greathouse, who took over as executive chef within the past month, grows a small garden behind the restaurant and lives on a 35-acre farm in Chauvin, where he harvests some of the ingredients for dishes in the downtown restaurant.

Greathouse, 26, said his featured dishes are largely inspired by what he can get his hands on at the time, whether from one of his gardens or what he can find from local farmers or farmers’ markets.

At his own farm, the Galliano native grows 60-70 fruit trees, including dragon fruits, pears, persimmons, mangoes and papayas. Because figs and citrus are so common in the area, Greathouse said he tried to grow as wide of a variety of fruits he can that aren’t available in stores.

“I’ll a lot of stuff from myself that I grow personally - fruits, vegetables,” Greathouse said. “I have a lot of friends in the community who grow as well, so I try to use as much local ingredients as possible to use for our features.”

This farm-to-table style inspired his latest featured dish, a butter-poached lobster with house-grown tarragon cream sauce over pasta. It’s garnished with balsamic caviar and edible flowers grown in the back garden.

“I’ll try to go to as many farmers’ markets as I can when I’m off and available, and then I’ll sort of walk through what’s the best-looking stuff they have and then base my what my dishes are going to be from there, based off either a vegetable or fruit,” Greathouse said.

The featured dishes are offered for about two weeks, possibly shorter, so the ingredients are as fresh as possible, which ensures quality, he said.

Also coming soon to the restaurant is a pan-seared foie gras over toast ends with spiced papaya-mango puree, onion marmalade and house-grown flowers.

An artistic attention to detail and colors that catch the eye typify his dishes. The chef said he’s not a fan of the traditional meat-side-side meal that restaurants typically offer, but instead thinks a meal should catch the eye and should look as though a picture should be taken of it.

“You eat more with your eyes,” he said. “I mean, you want the food to taste good as well, but you eat with your eyes. You see the food first.”

Greathouse has been cooking most of his life and since he was 14 has always been in a kitchen of some sort until he joined the Army at 19. He served in the Army for three-and-a-half years until he was medically retired due to injuries he sustained in Afghanistan.

Upon his return, he started working at Christiano Ristorante in Houma under Chef Lindsay Mason, where he said he picked up most of his formal knowledge of cooking.

“I had always just seen food as a job, as a way to make money, but after actually working there and working with Chef Lindsay, he showed me it was a career, not just a job,” Greathouse said.

Greathouse has worked in Fremin’s kitchen in Thibodaux and the Besh restaurant group in New Orleans and helped open Root 2 Rise, a cafe and banquet hall in Houma. He’s been working at Milano’s for the 18 months.

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