Local gay chef Greg Montelaro has gotten the community sizzling over his steak nights at BUDDY’S. The Louisiana native is bringing his culinary talents to Montrose weekly, but he also has other things cooking around town.
“Christopher Barry and I have been friends for years, and I was already doing a steak night at D&T’s over in the Heights. Christopher and I had talked about me moving my steak night over to BUDDY’S for a while, and it felt like a move I needed to make. Working with Christopher and bringing my skills back into the community and neighborhood just felt right,” Montelaro says.
That feeling was indeed right. From the very beginning, BUDDY’S steak nights were a hit, and they still draw sellout crowds to the local watering hole.
“I remember that first steak night—we were slammed. We were not expecting anything like the reception we got. We opened to over 70 people standing in line, and it hasn’t let up since. You know, you work really hard to put out a product that you’re proud of, and to have so many people fall in love with what you do is just, well, everything,” Montelaro says.
Although BUDDY’S steak night is relatively new, Montelaro is no stranger to Montrose or Houston, even if he wasn’t born here.
“Almost 23 years ago, I was in Houston for business and met [my husband], Steve Dekker. Steve was so handsome—a tennis pro. He coached Zena Garrison through her French Open win. He was part of the U.S. Paddle Tennis team. He was sweet, he was kind—with the most gorgeous smile—and I was smitten. Six months later, I moved to Houston. I married Steve, and for 17 years that man was my life. He was, in all things, the better part of me.
“I lost my Steve to brain cancer in 2016. By then Houston had become my home, and the community here was my family,” Montelaro recalls.
His journey to becoming a chef is connected to his Italian family roots. As a dual citizen of Italy, Montelaro purchased a flat in Rome before he moved to Texas, so he spent quite a bit of time there.
“My Italian grandfather had hotels and restaurants. I don’t remember ever learning how to cook—it was something you just grew up doing in my family. As a young adult, I spent time all over the world—Italy, France, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Mexico—learning everything I could about food, and the cultures from which it evolved. I love food. Or I guess, more specifically, I love the expression on people’s faces at first bite. That’s what I cook for, making people happy with something I’ve poured so much of myself into,” he says.
When not keeping things hot at BUDDY’S, Montelaro is the corporate chef for the Taylor Group, a set of high-end luxury rehab facilities. He also has several other private clients, including professional athletes.
“I love what I do. I am so lucky that I found a career that lets me do what I love to do and make other people happy doing it. I recognize that that’s a rare thing in life, and I just want to keep doing it as long as I can. I also want to be able to spend more time with my kids and grandkids,” he says.
When asked what his specialties are, Montelaro has a quick answer. “I think I’m obligated to say steak,” he laughs. “If I had to pick what I do best outside of that, it would be anything from the Creole or the Italian canon.”
When asked what his favorite thing to eat is, like a true Italian he explains the joys of pasta in all its forms.
Steak night at BUDDY’S is every Wednesday, and Monetelaro starts taking orders at 6:30 p.m. They serve ribeyes, NY strips, and filets (along with sides) for $20. For those who are not into meat, there are always a few Impossible Burgers on hand, as well as grilled shrimp and salad. You can find Montelaro on the deck cooking throughout the evening.
“The atmosphere is relaxed; people come in groups. It has basically become an easygoing midweek tradition in the neighborhood,” Montelaro notes. “We’re still slammed. We still sell out every week. Nothing’s changed there. It’s just a great night out.”
For more info, visit tummyfood.com.
This article appears in the April 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.