Matthew Accarrino does well when things get difficult. Well before the current pandemic, a crisis that’s imperiled his business, threatened the livelihood of Matt and his employees, we watched Matt show up for a Velocio ambassador camp just days after breaking his collarbone on course at the 2019 gravel race in Kansas. (He rolled up his sleeve- the other was in a sling- and made amazing food for the time we were together.)
As a chef, that perseverance may be because Matt blends cycling and cooking seamlessly. The award-winning chef found cycling at a young age before a bone tumor, the result of a benign birth defect, weakened his right femur. It shattered in a crash, ending his racing and laying the path for a life in food. His return to riding has been a balancing act, driving forward through hardship to find a better way.
Name: Matthew Accarrino (@mattaccarrino)
Current Locale: San Francisco, CA
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
“First of all, you need ambition, to get in the kitchen or to get on the bike.”
- Matthew Accarrino
Accarrino has kept SPQR, a small but venerable restaurant open in San Francisco for over ten years, earning an impressive collection of awards along the way: Five James Beard Award Nominations, 8 consecutive Michelin Star Awards and the Food & Wine Best New Chef Award. But it was cycling that prepared him for the abrupt shutdown caused by the pandemic.
“When we were forced to close in mid-March, it was abrupt, a bit of a shock to the system. But we didn’t waste time. We pivoted quickly to takeaway. Called Accarrino’s To-Go, it is a daily changing menu of delicious pastas and family meals prepared by me and the SPQR kitchen team. It was the head-down nature of bikes that made me feel we could get through it. You put your head down.”
Working long days and long weeks to keep his restaurant going, Accarrino still shoehorns in rides.
“When things are stressed, pressed and pressured, I’m used to it. Maybe I even like it. It’s what makes me love the bike, love to suffer. I’ll be out later this summer aiming to beat old Pros. Hopefully, we see events but even still, I’ll look forward to carving some time to get away out of the schedule and just ride along. One of the things that draws me to bikes is the ability to disconnect or to connect in a different way.”
Connection has defined Accarrino’s tie to Velocio. The cook for ambassador camps and photoshoots (in addition to being a sometimes model), a high mileage rider inclined to give well-thought-out feedback on product, Accarrino naturally connects to the Velocio brand.
“Their initiatives related to the community at large, to environmental concerns, their community and their commitment to quality makes me glad to be a part of the brand.”
To the current moment, Accarrino is optimistic:
“I’m a person who looks for the silver linings and I’ve seen this time as a real chance to re-focus myself and enjoy being with my team in the kitchen, be at home more and get out on the bike alone and really clear my mind. It has also again reminded me to make the most of the time I have and that if there are places I want to go and things I want to see, you have to make a point to check those boxes.”