CANFIELD — Matthew Putzier remembers wanting to play sports his whole life while attending college in Columbia Station, Lorain County.
However, Putzier soon realized that playing sports was not going to be a lifelong calling. It was by taking a home economics course and cooking with his mother at home that he ignited his love for the culinary arts.
“I discovered that I loved the culinary arts and enrolled in the culinary program at Lorain County Joint Vocational School (JVS). Then I attended the Culinary School at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky , where I got my associate degree in Culinary Arts. I moved to the Cleveland area where I got a job at a Mediterranean restaurant called M Bistro in Westlake. The owners of M Bistro were Greek and we so had an American and Greek menu,” Putzier said.
Putzier worked full-time for years at M Bistro to gain experience in the industry to qualify for his Career Technical Education License in Culinary Arts Education. The plan paid off as Putzier has served as a culinary arts instructor for juniors and seniors at Mahoning County Career & Technical Center in Canfield for the past 15 years.
“Tim Michitsch, chef-instructor at Lorain County JVS encouraged me to teach culinary arts after I replaced him one day. I applied for jobs all over northern Ohio. J judging a food competition at the RG Drage Carrières Professionelles in Massillon. The instructor there encouraged me to apply to the MCCTC because a teacher was retiring there. I felt like I was right place at the right time. I interviewed three or four times for this position with MCCTC Superintendent John Zehentbauer and he hired me,” Putzier said.
Putzier discovered his love for southern cuisine while attending cooking school in the southern United States. He said he enjoys the slow home style that is quintessential southern cuisine.
“Working with the Greek/Mediterranean style of cooking at M Bistro was a dramatic contrast to southern cuisine. When you live in the Midwest, it’s all steak and potatoes. I lived down south for two years and then moved back to the Midwest. The experience of Greek/Mediterranean cuisine kind of complemented me,” Putzier said.
Although Putzier has not traveled the world, the experience of cooking a wide variety of cuisines has been a way for him to learn about various cultures.
“For the past two years, the MCCTC has held events for Taiwanese chefs. It was a cool experience where I learned that food is a common language and the language of food is universal. The language of food translates easily when you don’t understand another culture’s language,” Putzier said.
For Putzier, there is a contrast between being a culinary arts teacher and working in a restaurant. However, in both experiences, you train and train the people you work with in the atmosphere of the kitchen.
“I realized that when you work in a restaurant, you are constantly making products. When you enter culinary education, you are also making food products. When you work with students, your students become your product. You have to continue to get to know your students. When you’re a culinary arts instructor, your goal is to try to make your students adaptable to the workplace and keep up with the industry,” Putzier said.
Putzier said the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a great challenge for the restaurant industry as well as enrollment in the MCCTC’s culinary arts program. Putzier said enrollment in the culinary arts program in the 2021-2022 school year has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“I taught culinary arts for 12 or 13 years, telling students that you will always have a job. In 2020, restaurants were closing during the pandemic. This had an impact on our registration. All of these restaurants are looking for employees. Right now, in 2022, interest in the culinary arts, hospitality and restaurant industries is on the rise. Currently, people are going back to eat. Restaurants need new employees,” Putzier said.
Working in the restaurant industry has already prepared Putzier to be an educator in the field.
“When I worked in the restaurant industry, I was always training new servers, new cooks and new employees. So when it came time to be a teacher, it just came naturally. When you work in a restaurant, you want your food products to meet a certain standard. In the same way, in culinary education, you try to bring your students to a certain level in the professional world. You constantly try to ensure that students have a standard level of education, passion and motivation, so they can be ready for the job market,” Putzier said.
Students enrolled in the MCCTC Culinary Arts program operate their own restaurant at the school, called The Bistro at MCCTC. Putzier said the restaurant is owned and operated by students. The MCCTC Bistro is open for lunch from early November to April.
“The MCCTC Bistro is open to the public (early November to April) and school staff also eat there. We run the Bistro at MCCTC like a regular restaurant, the only difference is that I keep the same standard menu. The students rotate through the different stations in the restaurant so they can learn the whole menu,” he said.
When Putzier isn’t teaching, he’s spending time with his family and, most importantly, doing his fair share of cooking.
“I am married and I have three boys under 6 years old. When it comes to cooking at home, I try to get my boys to eat what they need and try to introduce them to new foods. When I cook at home for my family, I keep track of the variety and keep track of what’s in season. With the MCCTC Culinary Arts program, I try to see what is happening in the industry today and incorporate that into my curriculum. Then I do it with my home cooking too,” Putzier said.
To suggest a Saturday profile, contact Editor-in-Chief Burton Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or Metro Editor-in-Chief Marly Reichert at email@example.com.