Tri-C Alum Earns Spot in Kitchen at Famed Chicago Restaurant Alinea
August 12, 2015
Cuyahoga Community College graduate Matt Munaretto is proving that he can stand the heat. He recently moved to Chicago to take a position in the kitchen of Alinea, one of the most respected restaurants in the country — arguably the world.
But even if Munaretto can take the heat, it’s not without sweat.
“This is the hardest work I have ever done,” he said.
Munaretto graduated from Tri-C’s Hospitality Management program in May. He earned his associate degree in culinary arts.
As he was nearing graduation, Maureen Leonard, a pastry chef who teaches in the Culinary Arts program, posed a challenge to Munaretto. “You want to be great?” Leonard asked. “You want to learn? Send your resume [to Alinea], and the worst they can do is say no.”
Karen Monath, associate dean of the Hospitality Management program, described Munaretto as “curious, ambitious and extremely creative.” Those qualities would serve him well when he accepted Leonard’s challenge, sent his resume to Alinea and offered to work there for free so the staff could see if he had the chops.
Alinea took him up on his offer.
“After my last day of a stage that was going on 16 hours long, they brought me into the dining room, sat me down, and ask me how I liked the atmosphere and where I saw myself in a year,” Munaretto said. “Then they asked if I wanted to work on the a.m. crew, but said it was a huge responsibility and that not everyone is made to work at Alinea. They said that, before I just moved to Chicago, I should think about it for a few days. There was nothing to think about for me. I emailed them with my response the next day.”
Alinea is owned by famed chef Grant Achatz and has earned a coveted three Michelin stars.
Achatz is considered a leader of the molecular gastronomy movement, which is a kind of culinary physics. While the menu rotates at Alinea, the multi-course dinners might feature dishes with edible balloons, raspberry foam, spherical juices and more. Dining there is meant to stimulate all of the senses.
“Tri C gave me the understanding I needed to keep my mind in the learning atmosphere,” Munaretto said. “When Chef is talking, I'm listening. I learned that my response, whether I liked what he said or not, is ‘Yes, chef!’ A kitchen is a line of power, and what Chef says goes and that's final.”
Munaretto started as a prep cook, but he has been working his way around the kitchen. Most recently he was responsible for making Balloon, Helium, Green Apple, a dessert that comprises an edible, helium-filled balloon sprinkled with green-apple crystals and anchored to the table by a dried green-apple string.
“Blowing up the balloon and watching it go out into the dining room is something that pictures can’t do justice to,” Munaretto said.
But as he was warned, working at Alinea is not a job for everyone.
“I didn’t realize how much actual work there is to do. I work noon to 4 p.m. (now), and I have 15 things that need done, and they want it done as perfectly as possible,” he said.