Chef Matt Schellig
Certified Executive Chef ®
Certified Culinary Educator ®
Certified Culinary Administrator ®
Associate Director of Culinary Arts
A.O.S. Culinary Arts
Joined Dorsey Culinary Academy in 2012
Q&A with Chef Schellig
What was the driving force for you to go into the Culinary Arts? What made you decide to work with food?
I think the final nail in the coffin for sending me in this direction was when I had to flip eggs:
I was working at the Double Tree in Troy and I was put on the breakfast station. It was my first time flipping over easy eggs in a pan (it is definitely a high level skill – if someone can smash eggs on line, they can do anything). I wasn’t so good at it, and I kept breaking the over easy eggs – it was really ugly. I ended up crying behind the dumpster and smoking a cigarette, and I thought to myself “I’m not going out like this”. So I bought a case of eggs (360 eggs) from my boss and 2 Teflon pans, and went home to flip the eggs. I did it until I could do it with both hands, and not looking. After that, I went to the store and bought more eggs just to make sure I had it down. I went to work the next day: the egg orders came in; the egg orders went out. Everything was smooth and beautiful. My boss had held onto the money I paid him for the eggs, he gave me my money back and gave me the letter of recommendation to the Culinary Institute of America. The rest is history.
What is your Culinary Arts background?
When I was 16 I decided to get a job at Olga’s in Birmingham, and they put me in the dish tank. Not exactly what I expected. I worked my way up from the tank to the cook’s line because I would sneak up there and start doing prep. A couple years later I was running one of their kitchens. After that I got a job at Stilene’: I was a busser there and wasn’t really cooking. After that I got a job at the Double Tree where I was flipping eggs.
I was cooking my way through college (I originally wanted to be a teacher), and I just decided that it was time for me to make a real investment into my career so I went out to New York and got my associate’s and bachelor’s in Culinary Arts. The whole time just cooking wherever I could with any chef that I could. I think I slept 3 hours for 2 years but it was great.
What is your favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
A nice large serving spoon because I can sauce, I can pick things up, and I can plate with it. This is, next to my knife. The spoon and the knife: the two most important things in the kitchen for me.I just like the way they feel in my hand. And when you do what I do, it’s a very sensual experience. In the kitchen, you have to use all of your senses.
What are your favorite foods to make or ingredients to cook with?
There’s nothing better than yanking vegetables out of the ground. Or fruits right off the plant and then preparing them (or just eating them). I used to not like tomatoes, I was used to the grocery store ones that tasted like cardboard, but when I tasted real tomatoes (fresh out of the ground), I realized there’s nothing in the world like that.
What do you love most about being a chef instructor?
When you have somebody that’s new or doesn’t understand and they start to learn and you see that little switch go on, there’s nothing better than that – that’s why I teach. That was my favorite part out in the industry. I will never get all of the enjoyment out of just cooking some food that I do from watching people grow.
I love graduation too. Watching my students walk across the stage and stop being my students. It’s because when they stop being my students, they’ve gotten what they can. That’s the goal, they come here so that they can graduate. We start with the end in mind, so when we get to the end, there’s that feeling of accomplishment – of coming full circle. My position here really puts me in touch with everybody’s journey – I get to be a part of it. I get to see what people go through, and the ones that have the most obstacles of getting there, when they do get there, it’s just that much sweeter.
What is your favorite class to teach?
That’s a tough one. I just like teaching.
In your opinion, what can a student gain from going to Culinary Arts school in Michigan?
A lot. First of all, you get hands on practice – if you come to school and you mess up, you can celebrate those mistakes. Whereas not going to school, you don’t really have that luxury. Something that might get you fired out in the real world, would actually be celebrated in a classroom setting. By learning from the mistakes here, you can prevent future mistakes made in the real world.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in the Culinary Arts?
Cook, cook, shut up and cook. Read and cook and do nothing else. Spend 10 years reading and cooking – fall in love with it. Taste the food. Love the food. Taste the weirdness (because some food is just weird). Start to enjoy it.
If you want to cook, COOK. You can’t cook by just thinking about it.
Chef Schellig is just one of our many talented and caring chef instructors here at Dorsey Culinary Academy. If a career in the culinary industry sounds like it may be the path you, Dorsey Culinary Academy may be the right way to help you get started. Learn more today!