Chef Victor J. McNulty

Developing a New Recipe for Success

When other boys his age were spending hours on the diamond in Little League, Victor J. McNulty was glued to his living room TV watching Julia Child.
 
“I wasn’t a sports kid. I wasn’t out playing. I just remember watching Julia,” McNulty says. “I loved the French cooking aspect of it, the structure of the kitchen and how she approached a recipe,” he says.
 
The year was 1980. McNulty was barely a teenager, and his career aspirations were set.

Starting with summer dishwashing jobs in the Hamptons, McNulty worked his way up the line through high school. From there, he studied hotel and restaurant management at New York University before graduating from the French Culinary Institute where the spirit of Julia Child beckoned. “The theory is that if you can cook French food correctly, you can cook anything. And it’s absolutely true,” he says. At the school, McNulty got to meet his inspiration when Child came to the classroom for a demonstration. “Meeting somebody who was a true pioneer in the field was one of the high points of my career,” he recalls. Her photo would wind up on the wall of every culinary business McNulty owned.
 
Like most aspiring chefs, McNulty dreamed of opening his own restaurant. He successfully opened two. The hours, however, took their toll. “I missed every holiday, every celebration. I worked every weekend. When my second son was born, I said, that’s it. I want to see my kids. I am done with the restaurants. That’s when I got out.” He sold the restaurants, but was faced with the question: What am I going to do now?
 
And that’s when he found a role as a licensed chef instructor at the Culinary Academy of Long Island in 2005. What he initially thought would be a career stopgap turned into a career pivot. He loved teaching the next generation of cooks–and he loved the lifestyle and the family-friendly hours. During his tenure, McNulty ran multiple campuses, wrote curricula and was named Instructor of the Year by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
 
His influence in the classroom? No surprise, Julia Child. “I really liked the way she was very structured as a teacher. She followed the steps but in a loosey-goosey sort of way. Enjoy your time! Drink a glass of wine! So yes, I ended up teaching like her. I follow the rules, and we’re having a great time.”
 
McNulty’s culinary career wasn’t done evolving. Today, teaching is still his business focus but the people who fill the classrooms are culinary enthusiasts, home cooks and kitchen rookies interested in an entertaining experience as much as what they’re whipping up. In 2019, McNulty launched the first of what is now three recreational cooking schools called The Cook’s Studio on Long Island.
 
The people who sign up for classes are there for fun. “We give them a little bit of knife-skill lessons, but we’re not showing them how to debone a chicken or poach a salmon. We’re not throwing French terms out there,” McNulty says. “We sell entertainment. My chefs have all gone to culinary school, but I hire them based more on their personality than on their cooking chops.”
 
The Cook’s Studio offers about 30 different interactive classes and operates seven days a week in industrial spaces that resemble commercial kitchens. The schedule includes classes like Chinese dumplings, bao buns, pasta, sushi and the most popular, hand-pulled fresh mozzarella and burrata.
 
McNulty no longer wears the chef’s uniform. Instead of spending days in the kitchen or the even in classroom, he works out his corporate office—soon to be joined in the business by his two sons. He’s now franchising The Cook’s Studio and gearing it to those who want to be in the food service industry but are tired and burned out.
 
“Even though I would never open a restaurant again, I love the restaurant business. And I love teaching,” he says. “I’ve found this niche, which is the best of a lot of worlds, and now I’m trying to share it with other chefs.”

Why Mercer Culinary

“At every class at The Cook’s Studio, we have 24 people beating the hell out of Mercer knives, and the knives can handle it. I use them at home. That’s why I’m as loyal to Mercer as the day is long.”

– Chef Victor J. McNulty, The Cook’s Studio