A hometown chef has earned nation wide recognition due to his abilities to create delicious dishes in the kitchen of La Cipollina.
Matthew Higgins, 24, is the Chef De Cuisine at La Cipollina in Downtown Freehold. Despite his young age, Higgins has been named one of the Top 25 Chefs Under the Age of 25 by Best Chefs America, a chef’s guide to other chefs across the country. In order to earn the title, Higgins had to be nominated by chefs who have experienced his craft.
Higgins had his first taste of the restaurant industry at a young age. When he was only eight-years-old he began serving fudge to La Cipollina diners. Through the years, Higgins became like family to La Cipollina Founder Anthony Braica, who took Higgins under his wing in the industry.
Under Braica’s instruction, Higgins worked every position available from a busboy, to front door, to dishwasher, to back waiter, line cook, and ultimately chef. But before proving himself in the kitchen, Braica had plans for Higgins outside of the restaurant industry.
“I did everything I could to keep him out of the kitchen,” said Braica. “I wanted him to go to college and work on Wall Street, but that didn’t happen.”
After graduating from Christian Brothers Academy, Higgins went on to the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. Despite his high grades, Higgins came back to La Cipollina with an even stronger desire to work in the restaurant. Even though Higgins never went to culinary school, he still worked his way up the culinary ladder to his position of Chef De Cuisine.
“It was definitely more difficult to not have culinary degree when starting out in this industry, I had to learn in an environment like [the television show] Hell’s Kitchen,” explained Higgins. “When you are in culinary school, you have the school training you for what you will experience, for me, Hell’s Kitchen was my reality.”
Despite the struggles Higgins experienced in the beginning of his career, he now looks to the future and with his national recognition, looks forward to extending his abilities in the restaurant.
“Matt has grown up in this industry but although he has been around it for so long it has been hard for him to shine,” explained Braica. “Matt has been in other people’s shadows for a long time so it is really nice that he has been able to step out from the shadows and has been acknowledged.”