About Chef Matt & Deglazed

If you’re new to this blog, you may want a little information about who I am, and what this is all about. I realize it is sometimes too much of a pain in the butt to go back and read all the posts to get the whole story, so allow me to bring you up to speed.

Me with my rib tree.

I’ve been cooking for pretty much all my life, and have always been expanding my skills and abilities in the realm of all things culinary. Most of my friends have complimented my cooking on several occasions, and I have always been drawn to the “romantically difficult” world of being a professional chef. I always had it in the back of my head that I should perhaps pursue becoming a professional chef.

But I had a full-time job as a web designer and online marketing specialist for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It was a great job for a cause that I cared deeply about, and it paid well enough that I could enjoy my home and vacations, and basically anything I needed. In short, I found myself in a very comfortable place, and suddenly “taking the plunge” to work long hours in a dangerous and uncomfortable workplace seemed less and less appealing.

Then one day I found myself teaching a cooking class for Fairfax county (Virginia) adult education. It was a class on Northern Italian Cooking, and I had a blast preparing the materials to teach people, doing the shopping, getting the equipment together and actually working with the class. It was tons of extra work in addition to my job, and for almost no pay. But I found myself eagerly anticipating this work despite all the extra effort it entailed. Somebody was trying to tell me something…

So I took the next logical step, and entered culinary school. It was night school at Stratford University and again I found myself working hard and giving up a lot of my extra time, but I was loving every minute of it. Also, I was finding that (according to my chef instructors) I did indeed have an aptitude for cooking, and possibly even had a chance of excelling in this career.

After about 2 years of schooling, it was time to take the plunge. This is about where the blog begins – where I’m getting ready to quit. In July 2006, I quit my day job, and began looking for work as a chef. Finding a job turned out to be relatively easy, as I had tons of leads, and my first day on the job was July 20, 2006 at a small restaurant called “Cafe Tirolo” in the Ballston area of Arlington. (And yes, I really did cut myself on my first day.)

Work went through a wild set of roller coaster rides through my time at Tirolo, and I was challenged to no end working there since anybody is going to struggle in their first kitchen job. But after about 4 months there, I realized that I had learned all there was to learn – and all they were willing to teach me – and so it was time to move on. So through a suggestion of both my parents and my in-laws who loved a small restaurant and wine bar called Restaurant Vero (now closed) in Arlington, I simply came in and asked if they needed help. They said yes, the rest is history. I started working there on November 15, 2006.

Stuffed Calamari

In my time there I have been gaining increased responsibility and allowed greater creativity to create menu items. My first addition to the menu was a smoked trout and persimmon salad served in Belgian endive leaves. It was good, but nobody ordered it. It wasn’t until a day where I was able to set cranberry juice on fire in the kitchen that I was also given the green light to invent a stuffed calamari dish. My calamari were ordered by some local restaurant reviewers by chance that night, and was very favorably reviewed.

However, even though I loved the job, and the people there, I realized that I had again reached the edge of what I could learn at Vero. A new and exciting opportunity opened up at Rustico in Alexandria, and I was soon off to my third job in my first year as a chef. Keeping up the pattern of only working at places whose names end in “O,” I began my tenure at Rustico on May 18, 2007. It was hard work from the get go as my culinary career was indeed reaching a new level.

I was immediately on track there to become a full-on sous chef, a title which I received after working there for 7 months. In the time there, I was able to add several new dishes to the menu, including a trio of cold soups that we served throughout my first summertime there, as well as developing a new root beer that was served briefly as a dessert, and a seasonal pizza (the autumn pie) that was the most successful seasonal pizza that was put on the menu. It was incredibly challenging at times, but also extremely rewarding as I saw myself learning new tricks and growing as a chef every day there.

I then left for England with my wife, and while there, we split up, and I came back to the US. I then helped open a new restaurant in Falls Church, VA called Open Kitchen. It was the business model of this place that drew me in, as they were not just a bistro, but also had rental kitchens and cooking classes. I was back where I started, teaching classes.

Teaching classes in Bedford, PA

I wasn’t blogging while opening this place as their sous chef and kitchen manager, and quite frankly, I don’t know if I would have had the energy, as it was tough and grueling work through that first year. I had 16 hour days and sometimes many weeks on end without a day off. But through it all, I helped get the restaurant through its first year – the most critical year – and the experience taught me so much of what to do, and what not to do, when opening a restaurant.

But being back in the world of culinary instruction showed me where my real path is in the culinary industry. And so I became a freelance culinary instructor, and decided to start up the blog once again. And offering cooking classes and in-house dinner parties has been a fabulous career with new challenges and tons of rewards.

So now you are all caught up! Get back to the blog, check back regularly, and enjoy!

Chef Matt