Chef Paul Mattison recently visited the campus of Manatee Technical College to share his culinary knowledge and skills with the students in the college’s culinary program. The program curriculum for that week was focused on beef and game. This was a perfect fit for Chef Paul primarily because of his knowledge and support of the subject.

It was important to Chef Paul to share his passion for supporting small family farms like Niman Ranch, that provide all natural, antibiotic and hormone free products.

Chef Paul has served Niman Ranch beef, pork and lamb at all three of his local restaurants for many years, as well as at numerous catering events and at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, where Mattison’s is the in-house caterer. So, it was a perfect opportunity to introduce the students to Niman and get them cooking with products from this industry leader.

The group of 25 students and program instructors started in the classroom hearing how Chef Paul was first introduced to the culinary world, how he became a chef and anecdotal stories about being a restaurant owner. Students were able to ask questions before heading into the kitchen. Once in the state-of-the-art teaching kitchen, the students gathered around the prep tables making sure they could see all that he had to show them. The students were focused and engaged as he explained the difference in the cuts of meat, showed knife cutting skills and talked about how to apply a variety of cooking methods to one cut of beef to create multiple dishes.

Then the students got busy. Students enthusiastically volunteered to marinate, cut, braise, chop and keep a watchful eye on their respective dish as it cooked in the pan, oven or stove top. The students made Schnitzel, pounding it out, coating it and getting the pan at just the right temperature to make the Schnitzel sizzle. Next up was a tenderloin which the students marinated and covered in fresh herbs. While that student was intensely keeping an eye on the tenderloin, another had the responsibility of making a mustard sauce that would be paired with the cut tenderloin. The students got inventive and spontaneous using fresh fruits they had in the pantry to make a Granny Smith apple and dried fig chutney as an alternative topping for the tenderloin. Chef Paul showed the students how to utilize as much of the product as possible to cut down on waste.

The kitchen was a beehive of activity, but everyone had a job to do and contributed to making two delicious dishes and two sauces. When all the cooking was done everyone took their turn trying a little of each dish. Chef Paul pointed out what a great job the students did and how impressed he was by their level of knowledge and natural abilities. The session ended back in the classroom where students were able to ask some final questions. Chef Paul said that he would be proud to have any of them come to work for him and be a part of his restaurant or catering team.

Caterers and restaurant owners look for people who take the industry seriously and consider working in hospitality a career rather than a stepping stone or just a job. Many catering companies and restaurants find it challenging to find staff who have an adequate level of knowledge and professionalism to be an asset to their teams. It was refreshing to see that MTC is cultivating staff that will provide local businesses with quality employees and leaders in the hospitality industry.

MTC’s Culinary Program, led by instructors Matt Schole, Mark Keckstein, and Melinda Benson, is comprised of two programs – an accelerated 6-month program and a full year, 12-month program. Students include dual enrolled high school students that are as young as 17 years old to adults up to 50+. Most have no experience in the field, a few have under one year of experience. Upon graduation, many plan to work in restaurants, hotels, catering, food trucks, or continue their education.

Roland Wilhelm, one of the students commented, “Chef Paul emphasized going back to basics, and to not overthink things that are simpler than you think they are.”

Mattison’s is a chef-owned restaurant and catering company with three restaurants throughout Sarasota and Bradenton that focus on presenting fresh, sustainable ingredients, innovative cuisine, and exceptional service while supporting local farmers, culinary suppliers, and the community on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Photos from Mattison’s