What's NOT on My Resume: L20's Matthew Kirkley

By Kathleen Squires  |  November 26, 2013

No one starts out on top, especially in the food business. In this weekly column, chefs and restaurateurs across the country share the stories of their humble beginnings.

Today, L20 executive chef and partner Matthew Kirkley is known for his precise presentations of modern seafood and a signature style that he developed over years working in kitchens such as the Striped Bass in Philadelphia and Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas. But the 2012 Zagat “30 Under 30” honoree got his start as a baker at a Panera Bread at the age of 16.
“This was when Panera was baking all their breads on-site for their stores,” the chef recalls. “I spent eight hours a night making--and eating--the house pastries, breads and bagels. It was a lot of work for one person, and being left alone in the shop at 16 was the quintessential kid-in-the-candy-store story.” Kirkley adds that the off-hours caused him to realize that “if I continued in this industry I would never have a normal life with normal working people.” Still, he decided to follow a culinary path. His big take-away from the experience? It narrowed his career goals. “It ultimately made me realize I never wanted to be a professional bread baker.”