Matt’s first kitchen experience was at the age of 16, in Philadelphia at Verti. In 2005, when he turned 18, he moved to New York and worked unpaid again at Cru before leaving for Oceana to work under Cornelius Gallagher. He then worked at Cru, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Matt then spent time at Daniel, where he was part of the team that earned both four stars from the New York Times, and 3 Michelin Stars. He even did a stage in England’s fame Fat Duck. Then in 2010 Rudofker signed on at Momofuku Ssäm Bar.
Nomination: Rising Star Chef of the Year
For more information on the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalists, click here.
Written by Daisy Martinez
After graduating from ICC, Justin worked under Chef Alain Allegretti at Allegretti in New York City, getting his feet wet in a professional kitchen. Justin joined the Food & Wine magazine team in 2010 as an Assistant Event Coordinator for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen; he rose up the ranks to Senior Test Kitchen Editor and in-house foodie-geek featuring his video series, “Mad Genius Tips”, which he has organized into an accompanying new book of the same name. When he is not busy testing hundreds of recipes for Food & Wine–the magazine, digital projects and their branded cookbooks–he has tested and developed dishes for other publications and appears regularly on many morning news shows, highlighting recipes and those “oh so kooky” shortcuts and kitchen hacks.
After my graduation from the ICC in December 2014, I began looking for jobs in the area as a sommelier. Not sure exactly what I wanted to do with my certification, but having experience in both front and back of house in restaurants, I visited the ICC to get some guidance. Thanks to the career adviser, Nicole Harnett, I was pointed in the direction of Rosewood Sand Hill and Madera restaurant in Menlo Park, a five star resort and fine dining restaurant. I began in February 2015 as the Lounge Sommelier, the more casual side of the operation. Thrown into the fire of having to learn a 98 page wine list with over 2,300 different labels (that also was a Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence winner), there was no other option except to pick it up – fast! With three great mentors working above me (wine director Paul Mekis, and sommeliers John McDaniel and Julie Sundean), I learned my way around the cellar and wine list quickly. At Madera, our wine team is extremely fortunate to be able to taste a great number of wines on our list, sometimes even with the winemakers themselves. These tastings proved invaluable in moving forward with me career.
Three months into my job at Madera I met chef Genaro Mendez, who was in the process of opening his own restaurant in East San Jose, The Creek Eatery. Wanting to expand my horizons and responsibility with a new restaurant, while still keeping my position at Madera, I agreed to be a consulting sommelier & beverage director. My responsibility was to create a wine list to complement the menu consisting of wood fired pizza and various globally-influenced dishes. For 14 months I met with various vendors, tasted hundreds of selections, researched and ordered wine in anticipation of our summer 2016 opening. This was my first experience working as a wine buyer, where I was faced with the age old dilemma of selecting wine that the customers would recognize and enjoy, not necessarily my geeky somm selections. In June 2016 The Creek Eatery opened for business, featuring a wine list with over 60 selections from around the world.
In August 2015 I was promoted to a position at the Madera restaurant as one of the three full-time floor sommeliers. Though my title is Madera sommelier, the Madera restaurant is just one outlet in a hotel that brings in over $4 million of profit from the resort wine program. I not only organize the cellar, staff training and tastings, I also help with wine selections in banquets, the lounge, in room dining and the pool bar & grill. Of course, at 5 PM every day my responsibility shifts to being present on the floor, guiding guests through our extensive wine list to select the perfect wine for their meal.
To learn more about the California Intensive Sommelier Training program, click here.