Chef Matt Louis ’01, My Answer is Always Yes
CIA Alumni Bio
Matt Louis’ father was a general manager at a hotel in Hampton, NH and would often bring his son to work. Finding office work boring, Matt would make his way to the kitchen. It was there that he met his first mentor, Chef Hok An Ng, who introduced Matt to the workings of a professional kitchen. When Matt was 15, he traveled with Chef Ng to the CIA’s Hyde Park campus. “When I saw the campus, it was pretty much the deciding factor,” says Matt. “I didn’t think about going elsewhere, it wasn’t even a thought.” Sure of his future, Matt worked to get as much experience as he could prior to entering the CIA.
My Answer is Always Yes
“When asked about the value of a culinary school education and if I would do it again and spend the money, my answer is always ‘yes,’ because it gave me the path to the career I have today,” explains Matt. “The scope of what I knew was broadened and I was exposed to things and ideas that I wouldn’t have been open to at the time. Specifically, I knew almost nothing about fine dining restaurants and I got exposed to that whole segment of the industry, which turned out to be vital to my education and future career.”
Planning For the Future
Matt was determined to get everything he could out of his time at the CIA and that included completing his bachelor’s degree in culinary arts management. “I thought it was best to stay in school and finish my degree because the likelihood of going back to school didn’t seem feasible,” Matt remembers. “One aspect of the bachelor’s program is a trip to the Napa Valley. We toured the area, spent time at CIA’s Greystone campus, and were exposed to the food, wine, and agriculture of northern California. As I was nearing graduation, I had my heart set on working for Thomas Keller, and that trip established my connections.”
From California to New York
Right after graduation Matt drove across country to Yountville, CA and started working at Chef Keller’s Bouchon. Any free time he had he would spend staging at The French Laundry. Matt eventually moved over permanently to work there. He was part of the opening crew at Per Se in New York City, helping the restaurant receive its first four-star review from The New York Times.
The Benefits of Staging
Eager to get back to his roots, Matt moved home to New Hampshire. He worked for a time at Southern New Hampshire University as a culinary instructor. He then accepted a position as executive chef at Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa in New Castle. After five years, Matt felt the time had come to open his own eatery, however, being away from fine dining, he felt he needed to get reenergized and refocused. The best way to do that was to stage at renowned kitchens—Eleven Madison Park, Momofuku Ko, Torrisi Italian Specialties, Café Boulud, and Noma. “In every kitchen, they are so driven by a single thread of concept and every ounce of energy related back to that purpose,” Matt says. “Staging made me realized you need to have a concept that’s unique and individual to you, and that will make your restaurant.”
Enter restaurateur Jay McSharry. Together, they opened Moxy in May 2012 and The Franklin Oyster House in May 2015. Accolades quickly followed including James Beard Foundation nominations for Best Chef Northeast, recognition from Food & Wine magazine, and a segment on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives featuring Moxy. Both of Matt’s restaurants are located in Portsmouth, NH and are approved externship sites for CIA students. “It’s a cool externship because you’re getting two for the price of one,” Matt says. “The restaurants are so close together, you get to work in both kitchens.”
“At the CIA you have incredible resources within the curriculum, the chef-instructors, the demos and lectures, and the library,” says Matt. “That doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. There’s a reason so many great chefs graduated from the CIA. As a student, embrace all of that and take it with you.”
Chef Matt Louis majored in culinary arts management at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He is the head chef and owner of Moxy and The Franklin Oyster House is Portsmouth, NH.