Hennepin Chef Lands 40 Under 40 Award

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
Illinois Valley Community College’s Illinois Small Business Development Center honors 40 local up and coming young leaders under the age of 40 each year. One of this year’s award winners is Hennepin’s Matt Dean.

Dean, 33, is currently a division chef/food fanatic chef with U.S. Foods out of Streator. When Dean first went to college, he had no idea how his life was about to change.

“I went to Illinois State University (ISU) and got my degree in public relations. I minored in tourism studies and took some business management classes. When I was down there, I started working for campus dining services. I was trained by a classic French chef. I got pulled into the catering department, which was the beginning of me becoming a chef,” he said.

Dean then went onto Le Cordon Bleu and earned an associate degree in baking and pastry. After working in the Chicago area, he moved back to the Illinois Valley.

In his position with U.S. Foods, Dean travels and researches culinary trends and helps other chefs learn how to perform them properly. The key is getting the trendy concepts to the restaurants before they become mainstream.

Dean is a village trustee and a fireworks coordinator for the village of Hennepin. He is a member of the Hennepin Fire Department as well as a First Responder. Dean is also active in the United Methodist Church Men’s Group and supports the Relay for Life — Team Hennepin of the Marshall/Putnam Chapter. He is also on the Pi Sigma Epsilon Marketing Fraternal Organization.

Dean’s personal philosophy is unique for a person of his age.

“If you want to make something of yourself, you’ve got to give back,” he said. “Whether it’s to the church, whether it’s doing the work at the fire department or here at the village, it’s important. When you give back, you make connections and get involved, but that’s not why you do it. It gets you more involved in the community. It opens doors for you. It helps other organizations.”

Dean cites the upcoming Putnam County Education Foundation Hallowinestock event on Nov. 1 as an example. Dean will be the celebrity chef who prepares the appetizers at this event.

“As I get involved, more people follow me, and I can promote events like this,” he said.

Dean remembers being moved at an early age by a volunteer opportunity.

“When I was at ISU, we did the food for the state Special Olympics,” he said. “So 20-30 hours a week on top of your regular work was the serving for this event ... you had kids coming through the line who got like a 10th place ribbon who were so excited. You had to come around the food tables, take off your gloves and give them a high five. That is more rewarding than getting a write-up in a Chicago magazine on a dish you prepared.”

Honorees of the 40 under 40 program were nominated by the community at large and selected by a panel of independent judges. They were honored at a reception at the Deer Park Country Club in October.

Source: Putnam County Record