At Catersource’s recent Diced Challenge, Chef Matthew Fresinski and teammate, Chef Mario Amaral, took First Place, winning $3,000 and a trophy. We catch up with this CIA graduate who, over the past 10 years, has been part of the opening team of over 10 restaurants across the country. He recently opened the famous Cake Boss’s restaurant, Buddy V’s, at the Venetian/Palazzo Hotel and is consulting at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, where he is in charge of implementing an upscale menu revamp to R Steak and Seafood as their Executive Chef.
Q: How did you feel competing (and winning) in the recent DICED Challenge?
It was great, It was my first time competing and I’m ready for more! We just started going, and everything fell in to place!
I opened Buddy V’s with Mario, we did all the pre-opening work together, more or less working out of a closet. We work very well together. We have very similar demeanors in the kitchen.
Q: How long have you been cooking for?
I started in kitchens when I was 13…so about 20 years.
Q: You started your culinary company at 15. What made you decide to venture out on your own like that at such an early age and who were your main clients at the time?
I loved the challenge. I worked mostly out of a local bed and breakfast. The majority of my clients were locals in Ithaca, NY. I did cater for the Vice President of Johnson & Johnson several times. I did his daughter’s wedding and engagement party.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to become a chef? What was your pathway to becoming a chef?
I always loved to cook, and I would watch Jacques Pepin every Saturday morning. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Q: So would you say you were quite influenced by French cooking as a result?
My foundation is very much rooted in French cuisine, but I have branched out over the past years.
Q: Was watching Jacques Pepin your inspiration to going to the CIA or what made you decide to go?
My first Chef was actually my inspiration. I wanted to be as good as she was.
Q: Would you advise people thinking about going into the food industry to attend a formal culinary academy?
I believe it gives you a great head start, but I would also highly recommend working in kitchens for 2 years before heading off to school to make sure it is a good fit for you.
My first Chef was Rene Senne, I snuck in her kitchen one day and didn’t leave for 4 years. She gave me a great foundation and passion for cooking. Another chef I worked for was Louis Osteen, another amazing chef. I think their success is linked to their passion and drive in what they do.
Q: How do the 2 styles of these 2 chefs differ? What type of cuisine did they specialize in, and were you more influenced by one over the other?
The 2 chefs were very different, one was very much a French chef, the other a great chef from South Carolina, which was his primary cuisine; low-country at its finest.
Q: What excites you about the business? What keeps you motivated to keep cooking?
I love the challenge, it’s never the same every day.
Q: Can you share with the readers what Blau & Associates does, and what you do there?
Blau and Associates is a restaurant group, they do a lot of consulting and have a fantastic restaurant, Honey Salt here in Las Vegas. I started doing consulting with them about 6 months ago which is how I landed at the Riviera.
Q: In your opinion what do you see as the biggest operational challenge in the kitchen?
I think the biggest operational challenge in the kitchen is keeping everything consistent, everyone has their own way of doing things, and it’s up to me to make sure we are all on the same page.
Q: From your own successful career and experience, what advice can you give others starting out in the foodservice business? How will they get to where you are?
Work hard, and stay focused. It’s easy to get distracted in this industry.
Q: What is your favorite cuisine to prepare?
I never really had a favorite cuisine to prepare, I love them all. The great thing about working in the kitchen is that there is always more to learn and experience. I will go through phases, though. Right now I am hooked on making bread.
Q: What is a typical day for Matthew Fresinski like? How do you balance work and family time? Do you do the cooking for your family at home or does your wife?
Get up early, make breakfast for my son, relax for a little while and go to work. Get home, my son always waits up for me even if his eyes are heavy. I put him to bed, have a little bourbon and call it a night. Keeping it all balanced with the long days in the kitchen can be difficult, but when I’m home I’m all about my wife and son, and try to squeeze as much as humanly possible into every day. I do all the cooking at home, always a lot of leftovers.
Q: And lastly, of course, what is your favorite Cambro product and how does it help you?
I’m all about the Cambro Camsquare storage containers. Everything goes into them!
Thanks to Chef Fresinski for sharing his story with us and if you’d like to connect with him, check out these links: