Meet Chef Shawn Matijevich
He’s leading ICE’s online culinary arts program.
Shawn Matijevich, Lead Chef for Online Culinary Arts & Food Operations, started his culinary career as a chef in the Navy. After spending years in fine dining and education, he’s now come to ICE to guide students through their online culinary school experience.
Chef Shawn’s mother grew vegetables in their family home’s garden in Seattle and sold flowers at bustling Pike Place Market. Despite the natural bounty available, he wouldn’t eat any of the fresh food grown right in his backyard, and instead preferred plain cheeseburgers and blue box mac and cheese.
Growing up, Chef Shawn was far from a foodie, but his mother made him get a restaurant job as a teenager to give him an outlet for his rambunctious energy. Suddenly, food was amazing.
“It was pretty tough to hate food and work at a restaurant,” Chef Shawn says. “You eat something prepared by someone who knows what they’re doing and you’re like, ‘This is what it can be?’”
From that moment on, Chef Shawn fell in love with food, a passion that’s taken him around the world and ultimately to ICE, where he’s leading the newly-launched Online Culinary Arts & Food Operations program.
Chef Shawn wanted to go to culinary school after high school but couldn’t afford it, so he enlisted in the Navy knowing the military would cover the cost of his education.
“They wanted me to do something with computers or something to use my aptitude, but I wanted to be a cook,” he says.
As a chef in the Navy he toured 15 countries and cooked for thousands of people. He’d often make chili mac and mashed potatoes — “things that would fill you up,” he says — and fill 80-gallon steam-jacketed kettles to feed mess halls full of hungry soldiers.
He doesn’t cook at the same scale anymore and now has access to better ingredients, but Chef Shawn has taken important lessons from his five-year stint in the Navy, where he’d leave with the title of leading culinary specialist (for civilians, that’s an executive chef).
“It’s influenced my philosophy. It’s important for me to leave my mark, because it could be someone’s last meal,” Chef Shawn says. “What I created was the only thing they had to look forward to, except for going home. That’s stuck with me.”
After the Navy, Chef Shawn worked as a chef-instructor in San Diego for three years before moving east to work in fine dining in the Washington, D.C. area. He was chef de cuisine at Range by Bryan Voltaggio and executive chef at BLT Prime by David Burke. Eventually he moved back to Virginia, where he spent most of his childhood. He landed a job as executive chef of The Restaurant at Four Eleven York in Norfolk.
From feeding thousands in the Navy, he went on to serve about 500 guests a night at his stops in the capital where his back-of-house staff totaled upwards of 60. By the time he moved to his intimate Virginia restaurant, that number shrunk to six.
Having seen it all in restaurant kitchens, Chef Shawn made his way back to education. But while teaching at culinary school, he faced the now-familiar challenge of shifting from in-person to online lessons.
“When there’s a challenge you can decide to rise to it or run away from it,” says Chef Shawn, who’s bringing his experience of online education to ICE.
While the concept of online culinary school may have seemed foreign in the past, it’s now a must, given all the changes throughout the ongoing pandemic. He says the expectations of an online culinary education are similar compared to an in-person one, and it’s an especially attractive option for those who cannot attend classes at ICE’s campuses in New York or Los Angeles.
“We’re providing great resources, demos and recipes," he says. "I'm here to coach and guide you."
Chef Shawn has worked in the industry for over 20 years, and he’s excited to keep going and dive into the new world of online culinary education.
“I’ve been able to go all around the world and raise a family, so to help someone else who’s thinking about making a change in their life gain the skills to do that, that’s an incredible job and brings an incredible amount of satisfaction.”