GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Great food has been a lifelong pursuit for Kevin Cottrell, growing up in Greensboro.
But, like a lot of kids, things started much more simply.
“It was a lot of Hamburger Helper, a lot of Prego pasta and stuff,” remembers Kevin. “Which there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s quick and easy and delicious but since I was very small, I had this interest in food and that grew from the first time I learned how to make scrambled eggs. Then, learning how to work the grill with my dad, I just had a real draw towards (cooking).”
Five years ago, he met Tal Blevins, who had spent years as a tech journalist in Silicon Valley before moving home to Greensboro with his wife, Nicole. The two bonded over their love of – and skill in creating – food and decided to create Machete Meals which, for the first two years, was more of a supper club where the team would either come to your house or you could come to the space Tal built for serving in his home near his alma mater, UNCG, and have a 9 or 10-course meal, unlike anything you could get in the Triad.
“It’s normal to hear about it from Durham, Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh but one of our other goals was to really put Greensboro on the map,” says Kevin.
They quickly became a phenomenon.
“What I think what really set us apart or really drew people to us is there weren’t a whole lot of dining options like what we do here at Machete in the Triad area, right?” says Tal. “You see many more in the Raleigh area, you see many more in Charlotte so I just think it’s something that people had maybe wanted here for a long time just didn’t have a chance to experience.”
Both Tal and Kevin are quick to mention they are just part of a much bigger team – a team that understands they’re doing something special.
“No one’s here just for the paycheck. They’re all passionate about food, the wine that we serve, the cocktails, they want to work here,” says Kevin.
What they produce looks more like art than food but the reviews on the food’s taste are about as good as they can be. Machete was a semi-finalist for a James Beard award in 2022 and was #18 on Yelp’s list of the top 100 places to eat in America, the only North Carolina restaurant in the top 75.
All that works requires some downtime, though, which Kevin cherishes.
“And to have hobbies – as a chef to have hobbies that have nothing to do with food or cooking,” he says. “I think that helps with those creative goals because you’re not constantly thinking of the same thing all the time.”
“I think it’s super interesting to have a one-year-old son, he’ll be one next month, I would say that’s probably my biggest hobby, right now,” Kevin says.
For Tal, it’s key to have the sense of camaraderie that exists in the Greensboro restaurant scene. They see each other as kindred spirits, not competitors.
“I talked to Kris Fuller at Crafted, I talked to Wes Wheeler at Undercurrent and I talked to Nick Wilson at 1618 Concepts and all of them gave me great advice before we opened up to just help me navigate,” says Tal.
He reminds folks if you want to make sure you can get a table at Machete on a Friday or Saturday in particular, make a reservation… because the word is out.
See some of Machete’s food creations in this edition of The Buckley Report.