by J.T. Buchheit
Matt Phillips, a student at the college, will embark on a trip to Budapest, Hungary to take part in an international cooking competition. He will be leaving on Sept. 6, and the event will take place on Sept. 11. Phillips will be the first student in the history of the college to participate in this competition.
“[The competition] is going to be a good experience,” said Phillips. “I’ll have a chance to do a lot of networking … I think everybody’s going to work hard. There’s going to be a lot of quality, so I’m excited.”
Phillips works as a sous chef at the Blue Hills Country Club under Todd Walline, who is also a culinary professor at the college. Walline thinks Phillips has the skills to win the competition.
“His organization is off the charts. It’s some of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Walline. “His knife skills are world-class. The other big thing for him is he’s very calm. He doesn’t get rattled.”
What makes Walline’s praise of Phillips even more remarkable is the fact that Phillips has not been in the culinary industry for a long period of time.
“Just out of high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Phillips. “At the time, I was working at a college, and the manager said I had a gift for [cooking], so I should look into the program here.”
In addition to being in the culinary program, Phillips also competed on the college’s culinary team, which is led by Professor Felix Sturmer.
“He was a member of the team until last year, then he graduated and became an apprentice,” said Sturmer. “It’s an unusual route he’s taken because we’ve never had anybody take part in that competition or have gone that far.”
Walline and Sturmer both think Phillips has the skills to prosper in the competition. Walline also finds Phillips to be a great benefit to his restaurant both in and out of the kitchen.
“He is very much a lead-by-example type person,” said Walline. “He won’t ask anything of anybody that he hasn’t done himself. He is very accepting of anyone who walks in the door. There’s no stranger to him. Everybody is a friend. He’s very welcoming and a natural-born teacher.”
Although Walline has glowing opinions on Phillips in multiple facets of work, he acknowledged that Phillips and others in the industry can always strive to improve.
“The beautiful part about our business is that there’s always more to learn,” said Walline. “What I’m working with him right now on is the financial aspect. That’s the area we’re concentrating on right now.”
Phillips is eager to begin his journey to Hungary and take part in the cooking competition, as well as enjoy all the other amenities the country has to offer.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the different culture and being in a different place,” said Phillips. “This is my first time in Europe. I love to travel, so the highlight is being in a new place and meeting new people.”
Phillips will try to raise the bar even further and bring a victory to the culinary institute and the college as a whole.