When Matt and Nicole Sileno got married at the Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg in March 2017, they had their big day catered by an award-winning food truck named Cured.
Their friends and family enjoyed beet salad, macaroni and cheese, pork belly and a short-rib dish with a view of rolling countryside.
The couple stayed in touch with the caterers, even as they began making plans to open their own food truck in Williamsburg. When Cured owners Jeremy Thrasher and Tarek Kipry announced they were taking jobs as restaurant chefs in Washington, the Silenos reached out and made them an offer.
Now, with a fresh look and a new name, the couple is operating their own barbecue kitchen out of the very same truck that catered their wedding.
“We think about it all the time,” said Matt Sileno, 37. “It’s cool that we’ll have that piece of our history together with us with the truck being a part of the wedding. It’s pretty neat.”
Let the meat speak
The Silenos began Matchsticks BBQ in late April, parking their truck between Richmond and Newport News.
Williamsburg’s breweries have been the most common places they’ve served. They’ve also been seen at large events such as the Pro-Am BBQ Cookoff and the Williamsburg Music and Wine Festival.
“In the beginning you’re just hoping a couple places will give you a shot,” Matt Sileno said. “You’re passionate about food and you think you have a great product but it’s about people trying the product. It’s really just about consistently putting out a great product so that people who are coming back get the same experience, and from there word of mouth will kick in.”
Matchsticks offers brisket and ribs, which are Matt Sileno’s favorite items. Nicole Sileno said her favorite side item is their macaroni and cheese, while her husband prefers their collard greens.
“To me, it’s very simple. It’s keeping things black and white — kosher salt and black pepper rub on brisket and ribs — no crazy injections and doing all these weird techniques,” Matt Sileno said. “I keep things very simple. I think barbecue is very straightforward, and you let the meat speak for itself.”
Matt Sileno handles most of the food preparation, cooking through the night using a Lang BBQ Smoker that he said bumped up his barbecue game “ten notches.”
Nicole Sileno said she prefers to work with customers and handle the operations side of the business, but she’s made her impact on their menu, too.
“We’re at a place where our recipes are pretty solid, but as we were figuring it out I had the lovely job of taste testing,” said Nicole, 31. That was before her husband purchased his Lang smoker.
“We just worked on it until we thought we had a product that we wanted to give to our customers,” she added.
Quality of life
While on their honeymoon in Bora Bora in June 2017, the newly wed Silenos hashed out what they wanted to do with the future they would build together. Matt had been a director of sales for a few companies in and around Washington, and Nicole was working as a government contractor.
However, the couple weren’t happy with their careers and agreed they needed to make a change, or perhaps take a leap of faith.
“Needless to say we were both wrapped up in the daily grind,” Matt Sileno said. “It hit us like a ton of bricks one day that our quality of life wasn’t what we wanted.”
They decided to move to Williamsburg to carve out their own business in a new field. The couple routinely visited Williamsburg for the history and a meal at their favorite restaurant, the Fat Canary.
Matt Sileno said he’s been dreaming of being a chef since he was a child, and as they embarked on a lifetime together the couple said it was the right time to begin anew as business owners, too.
The couple moved to Williamsburg in October 2017 and haven’t looked back.
“I’m really impressed and proud of us, just because of how much we have done and how much we’ve got our name out there,” Nicole Sileno said. “I think the biggest thing has been the response from our customers. It’s gratification, and that sign this was the right thing to do.”