Hennepin Man Helps Turns Around Struggling Restaurants

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
It isn’t an easy, painless process, but if your restaurant is struggling, Matthew Dean may be able to help.

Dean, a division chef and Food Fanatic chef for US Foods, is part of an elite club — there are only 17 Food Fanatics in the country.

During his two years with US Foods, Dean has worked with chefs, restaurant owners and others in the industry to help them with business growth and success.

“It’s something different every day,” he said.

A restaurant might call Dean because they are looking for a replacement for one of their pasta dishes. He would then help them find the right fit for their menu.

If a business is struggling, Dean would look objectively at all aspects of the business and find ways to turn the business around. That might entail doing wait staff training or overhauling a menu.

“You help them,” Dean said.

One of his favorite parts of the job is seeing a client a month later and hearing how much better the business is doing, he said.

Dean’s love of food was first sparked by his family, who let him help make holiday meals and cookies.

“It was the little things I helped with,” he said.

Dean admits he wasn’t always a prodigy in the kitchen.

“I thought I was hot stuff when I learned to make macaroni and cheese from the box,” he said.

In college, he got a job scooping ice cream and began learning how to cook in earnest when he moved out of the dorms and into an apartment.

While attending Illinois State University, a chef, Mark Buckley, took Dean under his wing. That, along with becoming a student manager at ISU’s campus dining services, allowed Dean to immerse himself in the culinary world.

“It was a great learning experience,” Dean said, adding that he was able to cook for visiting celebrities during his time at ISU.

From there, Dean went on to earn an associate’s degree in baking and pastry at LeCordon Bleu and worked at Uptown Grill in La Salle.

“I grew in the industry,” he said.

Dean loves to share his love of cooking with his community and his family. He often cooks at home and uses local, fresh ingredients whenever possible.

“Fresh foods make the dish taste better,” he said.

Quentin Buffington, who serves on the Hennepin Fire Department with Dean, appreciates his passion for food.

“Matt’s food is always an adventure in taste that challenges you to understand and experience all your taste buds allow in each bite,” he said. “His knowledge of food and flavor is something that I have the privilege and honor of calling on when I am stuck trying to elevate my own culinary experience, and he has never let me down yet.

“Matt is always giving back with food, I mean, good food leads to happy people. From his fellowship church meals, to the Hennepin Fire Department Christmas cookie drive, or a fully-prepared dinner for a needy family in the community, he has never hesitated to use his skills to give back and I know we are all grateful.”

Although he loves his job, Dean has envisioned what type of restaurant he’d like to own someday.

“I have lots of concepts in my head and someday I’ll bring those concepts to life,” he said.
But at this point, there’s no rush.

“There’s always a right time. There’s always a right place,” he said.

Source: News Tribune