Learn from Someone You Respect — It makes it all worthwhile if you like the people you work with. Reach out and find a great mentor who will be able to guide you through it all.
I had the pleasure to interview Chef Matt Hurley, of CUT by Wolfgang Puck. A Boston native, young Hurley would often be found in the family kitchen cooking alongside his mother and grandmother. Intrigued by the foods of his heritage Matt loved spending his afternoons helping to prepare dinners for their large family. Here he learned the secrets of his family recipes and the true sense of family and the rewards of entertaining through food. His interest for the culinary arts and the passion for excellence led him to attend The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Studies. Following graduation, Hurley relocated to Las Vegas and began his 20-year career with the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. Starting as a prep cook at Spago, Hurley quickly advanced through a variety of roles within the restaurant group including café chef, line cook, kitchen and purchasing manager, and Corporate Catering Chef. To ready himself for an Executive Chef position, Hurley then spent time training at CUT in Beverly Hills working alongside Wolfgang Puck. Today, Matt Hurley’s distinguished talent, creativity and passion for cooking, serve as the perfect recipe for success in his role as Executive Chef of CUT by Wolfgang Puck, at The Palazzo Las Vegas. With originality and a desire to entertain, Hurley integrates a passion for fine dining with the freshest, all-natural ingredients possible to create seasonal menus that deliver a culinary experience not to be missed.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a chef?
I was inspired to cook at a young age while watching ‘The Great Chefs’ cooking series with my grandmother. She was a great cook and cooked for us all the time but seeing what people can do with food around the country and the world was amazing to me, especially as a child. Plus, it was something that I was better at than my older brothers and sister.
Do you have a specialty? If so, what drew you to that type of food?
I would say that I don’t have a specialty exactly. I feel as a chef you need to learn all aspects of cooking and all different cuisines. I run a steakhouse now, so I feel like that is something I do really well.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef?
A funny story that I have is that when I was training to become the chef of CUT by Wolfgang Puck, I was in Beverly Hills with Chef Wolfgang and he asked me to cook two steaks, one medium and one rare. I thought this would be no problem, but at CUT we char the steaks on the grill so that they have a crust and no grill marks… I was so focused on charring the steaks I cooked both steaks well done.
What is your definition of success?
My definition of success is to cook food I’m proud of and that guests enjoy. I want to be able to teach the next generation of cooks and help them grow and become chefs.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I started my cooking career at Spago Las Vegas 25 years ago. I was, not only a young cook, but I was also a young father. This time was tough for me because it was hard balancing my work life and my home life.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My love of cooking is why I kept pushing myself. The adrenaline of working service and learning new things every day from the chefs before me is what was fulfilling as a growing chef.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Grit taught me how to push myself every day and taught me that you must be humble and learn from your mistakes in order to be successful. Pushing myself and learning from my mistakes eventually led to my success from a young sous chef to the executive chef that I am today.
So, how are things going today? 🙂
Things are great! After 11 years I am the Executive Chef at CUT by Wolfgang Puck at the Palazzo in Las Vegas and I’m starting my 25th year working for the company.
Choose: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Chef” and why?
1. Work / Life Balance — I wish that someone would have told me to have more of a work/life balance growing up as a young chef so I could give the same amount of time to my career and my family.
2. Learn from Someone You Respect — It makes it all worthwhile if you like the people you work with. Reach out and find a great mentor who will be able to guide you through it all.
3. Make This A Career — Give it your all and don’t just do it as a hobby. You need really need to commit if you want to be a chef.
4. Make Work Fun — Find something about cooking and being a chef that makes it fun. Whether it be perfecting the perfect dish, being creative when plating, or simply bringing joy to customers. When it isn’t fun anymore, then you’ll be miserable and won’t be successful.
5. Learn As Much As You Can — Don’t pigeon hole yourself by sticking to one technique or one area of food. Learning everything and anything. It will help you down the road.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We have just added a new crudo bar to CUT and we are making all new dishes for the summer. Stay tuned for a new seasonal menu!
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
Find a great mentor and stick with them no matter what road they put you on.
In your experience, what is the key to creating the perfect dish?
Keep it simple and use the best ingredients you have.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Food waste is such a common thing in the industry. I encourage everyone to find a better way to utilize whatever food is wasted in the kitchen.