Chef Matt Tucker, a Myrtle Beach native, came to 44 & King in 2020 and has since unleashed his creativity and expanded his skills to continue his journey to a top A-list culinarian.
About Matt Tucker
Matt Tucker, a chef at 44 & King, was born to grind. He met hard work at a young age, shook its hand, and the two have been close-knit friends ever since.
From the jump, the 29-year-old Myrtle Beach native liked making his own cash. His parents didn’t have money to waste. So, he made haste and started hustling.
“I came from a lower-class family, and I had to start working early,’’ Tucker said. “I started cutting grass really young, like at 12 or 13. I always knew I had to get money.”
Tucker is dogmatic about cementing himself in an occupation charged with his zeal to accomplish each endeavor his mind conceives.
He is known as a skilled, imaginative, and occasionally prickly chef who enjoys the freedom and exploration his career allows.
He came to 44 & King about two years ago after longing for a daytime position that would grant him more time with his children. He has a 6-year-old daughter named Isla and 4-year-old twins named Wyatt and Evelyn. His youngsters are also his recipe samplers. Much of who he is as a chef was honed at home with them.
“Whatever you want to do, you can be good at it because it just takes practice,’’ Tucker said.
He is a fervent baker and became manic while honing his skills at home.
“I started going crazy,’’ he said. “I was making sourdoughs, my own starters, and all my favorite desserts. I was just crafting, and my kids loved it.’’
Tucker is determined to unleash the finest he has to give each day, as he continues down a road that will allow him to expand his skills and cement him among peers and people as an A-list culinarian.
“At 44 & King, I get to be myself,’’ he said. “I don’t have to act like anybody else. I don’t have to change who I am because my food speaks for itself.”
Pot roast is speaking on Tucker’s behalf on this particular Friday. The tender, succulent beef declared through mere taste, “This dude knows what he is doing.”
Tucker slammed dunk the dish, and he felt the exuberance of making something the crew and crowds at 44 & King enjoyed.
“This is the best post roast I have ever had, and I made it,’’ he said. “I’m just dying over it.”
Although he finds great satisfaction in executing proteins well, Tucker is a king of confections. The man positively adores desserts. At this self-declared Southern pub, which is truly so much more, he makes key lime pies, peanut butter pies, caramel cakes, and other sweet things.
“Any desserts I make here are coming straight from my heart,’’ Tucker said.
On this particular Friday, torrential rains soaked every uncovered inch, and lightning struck so loud that the entire restaurant became silent in a second, Tucker wore a Rastafarian shirt, knee-length denim shorts, work-safe black clogs, and a red baseball cap. His light beard makes him look older, but he still has a boyish face filled with Christmas-morning surprise and wonder. He was the kid smiling and laughing because his mom gave him extra time outside to play.
Work for him is fun, explorative, and challenging.
The mistakes and missteps mesh together to make him a better man, a greater chef.
“I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in this business,’’ he said. “I have seen a lot of people not want to learn. They didn’t want to try.”
Chefs know – and Tucker is no different – that restaurant life is pressure-filled, chaotic, and gratifying. It can be overwhelming, but the people who choose to stay in this universe know how to make the most of it.
“I have everything I need here to be creative and sometimes I come up with some amazing things,” Tucker said. “I will say, ‘No matter whether we sell this or not, I am going to still eat it.’’’
He worked at an array of restaurants, including Ultimate California Pizza, Villa Romano, and Greg Norman Australian Grille, before arriving at 44 & King.
Ironically, his career as a chef wasn’t what he originally planned. He studied human services in hopes of being a counselor. However, the curriculum wasn’t what he anticipated.
“I didn’t know I was training to be a case worker,’’ Tucker said. “I was interested in techniques for counseling and stuff like that. I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into.”
Eventually, he had an epiphany and decided to quit Horry Georgetown Technical College, although he was nearing the finish line.
“It wasn’t for me,’’ Tucker said. “I had to deal with people’s problems when I couldn’t even deal with my own problems.”
So, he plunged into the restaurant industry and has barely come up for air since.
Tucker first jumped into business at 14 by landing jobs at fast food restaurants and pizzerias.
Yet, it was his 4-year stint at Villa Romano that awoke the chef in him.
“I was like a work of clay,’’ Tucker said. “They took me and molded me into the sauce-making, pasting-making, and bread-making machine that I am.”
He became a Lego at that gig and discovered the various forms he could take in constructing himself as a chef.
From there, his chef ship eventually sailed to Greg Norman Australian Grille, where a coworker told him about 44 & King.
It is a relaxing haven that is a fancy pub and a casual-dining restaurant. The covered patio and outdoor dining area give customers a picturesque view of Kings Hwy. Behind the restaurant are housing developments, and folks stroll over as if they are visiting a friend’s house. The feeling of community is evident. It feels like a place made for Myrtle Beach, where locals and visitors can come for cold beer, wine, or cocktails.
This is Tucker’s hangout. This is where he unleashes the cooking beast from within.
“He is a good guy,’’ said Brandon McCoy, a bartender who flits about the eatery helping with whatever is needed. “He is quiet, a perfectionist, and meticulous.”
Tucker wants folks to feel good about what he puts down in the kitchen, and he believes his culinary boogie is solid.
So, he will keep on trucking down this culinary highway.
“I make jokes, but my food ain’t joking,’’ Tucker said. “My food is good every single time.”
With that, he smiled confidently, got up from the patio table, and headed back to where he is confident and king of his grub kingdom – the kitchen.
By: Johanna Wilson Jones, Local Food Writer and Judge on Chef Swap at The Beach
“I have everything I need here to be creative and sometimes I come up with some amazing things.”