Matt Finarelli


i've been cooking for pretty much all my life...

and have always been expanding my skills and abilities in the realm of all things culinary. Before I went "pro," I knew I was on to something big because of the reaction of my friends and family. They clamored for invites for home-cooked meals, requests for my famous grilled pizza, and always, always asked for third helpings. The passion was building - I was drawn to the romantically idyllic (yet purportedly difficult) world of being a professional chef. 

But I had a full-time job as a web designer and online marketing specialist for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It was a cause that I cared (and still care) deeply about, and it paid well. In short, I found myself in a very comfortable place, and as the years went by, the concept of "taking the plunge" to work long hours in what everyone described as a dangerous and uncomfortable environment seemed less and less appealing. 

Then I took a small step by teaching a Northern Italian Cooking class for the Fairfax Count Adult and Community Education Program. It was a challenge to balance it with my job, but I found myself eagerly anticipating every single class. 

Somebody was trying to tell me something... 

So I took the next logical step, and entered culinary school at Stratford University. I loved every minute of it, discovering with the help of my chef instructors that I really did have an aptitude for cooking at the professional level. 

When schooling was done, I took the plunge and became a professional chef. I worked at a series of restaurants in Northern Virginia including:

  • Cafe Tirolo in Ballston
  • Restaurant Vero in Arlington
  • Rustico Restaurant in Alexandria

In these restaurants I quickly rose to the level of Sous Chef in just under 2 years. I excelled in the restaurant world -- it became a second home. I also taught culinary arts whenever I could, including at the charming Italian store "LIFeSTYLE" in Bedford, PA. After a brief stint living in England, I then returned to the States and helped open the popular Open Kitchen in Falls Church. At the time, it was a unique concept in the world of cooking, as it was a restaurant that also provided rental kitchens, catering, and, best of all: cooking classes! I was teaching once again, and I loved it! 

I was back where I belonged, and while my culinary skills continued to grow and take shape in the restaurant, I found it was the teaching that I truly had a passion for. So I decided to strike out on my own, and am now a full-time culinary instructor and personal chef!