By Judy Bass
Imagine having the same boss for 26 years – and loving it. Matthew Hurley, the accomplished executive chef at CUT, a restaurant located at the Palazzo Las Vegas that food critic and commentator John Curtas lauded as “one of the world’s greatest steakhouses…one of the best restaurants in America,” has had the enviable opportunity to work for renowned Chef Wolfgang Puck for more than two and a half decades, and still rhapsodizes about him.
That connection, plus Hurley’s expertise and innovative flair, has catapulted him to the lofty pinnacle of the food establishment in America’s capital of glamour and glitz.
You might think that Hurley’s next logical professional step would be to operate his own restaurant, but that’s not really one of his aspirations.
“I have the ideal situation already with everything I want,” he declares emphatically, noting that Chef Puck gives him the prized freedom to be creative. “I’ve achieved 99% of my goals.”
Hurley, 44, of Randolph, graduated from Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton in 1993. After learning his way around a kitchen while majoring in Culinary Arts there, Hurley attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., graduating in 1995.
From there it was on to Vegas, which Hurley considers his home base to such a degree that he estimates he has come back to Massachusetts just six times in 26 years. (Hurley’s parents relocated to Las Vegas, so they are handily nearby. Whenever they do get to return to Massachusetts, Hurley said they always try to grab a bite at the outstanding student-run restaurant at Blue Hills, the Chateau de Bleu, as does his brother, who still lives in Randolph.)
Hurley attributes his success at least in part to the solid training he got at Blue Hills, where now-retired Culinary Arts instructors like Richard Andrea, also a Culinary Institute of America grad, and Sue Carter recognized Hurley’s potential and passion and helped him cultivate them. “They pushed me to be better,” Hurley says gratefully.
Looking back, he recalls the fierce work ethic which motivates him to preside over a top-notch eatery that serves 400 to 500 meals a night, with five chefs working under him. He says he is not only their mentor but their peer, working and learning alongside them every step of the way. The real stars at CUT are the dishes served there, from steak to chicken and fish, all the very best.
A typical day for Hurley starts at 10 a.m. when he arrives at work, followed by meetings with staff to review the menu, invoices and purchasing, then dinner service begins at 5 p.m. and lasts until 11 p.m., and he’s out the door by 11:30 p.m. A hectic pace to be sure, but it’s all to Hurley’s immense liking. He emphasizes staffing correctly, planning ahead, delegating appropriately, and making each customer’s dining experience superb, with subtle – and flawless - attention to every detail.
Hurley’s attitude during his student days at Blue Hills is the same now. “I’m going to put my heart and soul into it,” he vowed then, and his single-minded focus has evidently paid off big-time. At the highly-competitive CIA, for example, Hurley recalls he “had an advantage over some people” because he had a “better knowledge base” to work from, thanks to his comprehensive preparation at Blue Hills.
The advice Hurley would give to a current Culinary Arts student at his former high school is simple – “Keep your head down and focus. If this is what you want to do, give it 100%.”
That is precisely what Hurley did himself, laying the groundwork for a career that is rewarding, exciting, and put him on top of the heap. Ask him how he feels about what he does, and his response is terse, quick and unwavering – “I love it.”