Restaurateur \\ Serving up a true home cooked meal with unbeatable hospitality
Ever the visionary, Matt Tropeano, owner of Spoon and Seed in Hyannis, had a unique response to being approached as a featured profile. “We have excellent people here, and I hope to work with them for the next 20 years. If you really want to know me and what we are doing, I want you to ask our team at Spoon and Seed,” he wrote on Facebook. “My staff is everything. I can’t do it alone, and that’s what I always felt an article about a restaurant should emphasize,” he continues later that day. “Our business would never be successful without the people that work tirelessly every day to run it. The real story behind Spoon and Seed is about them.”
“I started when I was 15 or 16 working in kitchens, and I’ve found my peace here,” says Zlatko Dimovski, who moved to Cape Cod from Macedonia. “It’s unique,” continues Dimovski about Spoon and Seed. “We cook everything from scratch, and I think we have a good team working in the front and cooking in the back.”
“The team, the atmosphere, everything—that’s what I enjoy about being here,” adds Guldana Tussupkaliyeva who has been at Spoon and Seed for two and a half years.
Tropeano’s first kitchen experience was working at Primavera, owned and operated by his cousin, Jerry Gaita (“the Godfather as Tropeano calls him), in Millis, Massachusetts. “Cooking has always been about family for me,” he says. “And in my family, when it’s time to make tomato sauce, everyone’s helping. Making wine? Let’s go to Gino or Tony’s house; yes, I have cousins named Gino and Tony. They subliminally trick you into loving family with delicious food,” he laughs.
Tropeano expanded his family when he met his wife while working in a kitchen, and together the two of them moved to Dallas where he became a saucier, mastering a full range of complicated sauces. It wasn’t long before Tropeano found himself in New York City—a hotbed for talented chefs. “It was too hot in Dallas,” he jokes. “I had read No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain, and in the back of my mind, NYC was always a must.”
“I got a job at a French restaurant, and I just thought, this is it. This is what I read about in No Reservations,” explains Tropeano. “Day one, the owner, Charles Masson, was actually at the restaurant…wiping down tables. This guy’s a legend and he’s working. That really hit home.” Tropeano eventually worked his way up to Executive Chef at that little French restaurant. The name of the establishment? La Grenouille—the historic home of intoxicating French morsels and New York’s glamorous elite. For Tropeano though, success has a far more humble connotation than those star-studded days in New York’s finest restaurants. Triumph for him is found in the eyes of his wife as she looks at the business they have built together in Hyannis, in the hearts of his children as they lead a life enjoying all the splendors of Cape Cod, and in the achievements of his staff who are able to create their own lives and careers on the Cape thanks to his tutelage. “In New York, I had just turned 30, and I looked around and felt like I had the job I should have in my 40s about 10 years too early,” reflects Tropeano. “I hit a wall creatively, and when I really thought about it, I didn’t want to be ‘Mr. Chef Guy,’ pandering to the lifestyle of a celebrity chef. I’m not good looking enough to be a Rocco DiSpirito,” he laughs.
Tropeano and his wife Andrea have thrown everything they have into Spoon and Seed, from years of vast culinary experience down to handmade tables crafted by Tropeano’s father. “They weren’t repurposed because it was a trend, but because we had no money,” jokes Tropeano. “It was all hands on deck.” Tropeano’s staff became an integral part of Spoon and Seed’s first few years, and he will be the first to tell you that they are still just as important. Just like he learned at Le Grenouille, Tropeano encourages all of his servers to have experience in the kitchen and vice versa. “You can’t reach your full potential until all of the cooks know how to look a customer in the eye, serve them, and tell them their meal is going to be delicious,” he says. “I can see in my staff that they are ready to take on the responsibility we give them—to have that purpose. True farm to table is about everyone helping out.”
Being a visionary is about being imaginative, original and creative. Someone with vision is a true leader, but what would a leader be without a team? As Andrew Carnegie, an instrumental leader of the rise of the American steel industry, once put it, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” Tropeano has collected an incredible group of talented people, ones who are passionate about what they’re doing and the business that they’re working for. That’s true vision—to know it’s something that cannot and should not be done alone and to have the courage to put your trust in others. Tropeano allows his team’s individual ideas and own imaginative visions take shape within the confines of his business; Spoon and Seed is essentially the lines within which his staff are free to color their own vibrant paths, and the restaurant is better for it.
“I always wanted to create that place you see in the movies that everyone knows. For me, it was My Cousin Vinny where they sit down and tell the server how they like their grits. We want to be part of the community,” says Tropeano. Community spirit is certainly something that Spoon and Seed has in spades. “10 years ago, I did an interview with Martha Stewart; I said I’d own a family restaurant, and I’m living that now. In 10 more years? I’m hoping my wife will still want to get on a plane with me and we’ll do consulting on the side. If you want to be poetic about it, I think that ‘visionary’ means the sky is the limit.”
Visit Spoon and Seed online here and at 12 Thornton Drive, Hyannis!
For more visionaries, click here!
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