6 Questions with Chef Victor McNulty

Victor McNulty has had a life-long passion for cooking, crafting and creating. It all started when he took a dishwashing position at The Southampton Inn at 13 years old. Since then, McNulty has held numerous executive positions at restaurants from Montauk to Manhattan, owned and operated two of his own restaurants in Westchester and has been featured in outlets like Bon Appetit and Boston Magazine.

But, among his proudest achievements is teaching Long Island’s future chefs and restaurant owners at the Culinary Academy of Long Island. For the past 11 years, McNulty has taught and trained students at the school, which is part of the STAR Career Academy and among the top 22 culinary schools in the country. Most recently, he was named campus president. McNulty and Culinary Academy of Long Island will step outside the classroom when they cook for guests at Pulse‘s Island Tasting Thursday, Nov. 17. First, McNulty spoke with me about his inspirations and what it’s like to be the man in charge.

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Tell me a bit about your background and why you decided to become a chef.
I used to watch Julia Child on TV and I said, ‘that’s kind of a cool thing, I want to do that.’ From that point on, I was one of the lucky kids who knew what they wanted to do at a really young age. I worked in restaurants and then went to college and then went to culinary school. I’ve done nothing else my entire career except work in the restaurant industry.

What brought you to the Culinary Academy?
About 11 years ago, I owned two restaurants and decided to sell them so I could see my kids grow up. Right as that happened, I found a job teaching at the school on Long Island, and once I started teaching I loved it and never looked back. A few years in, I went out with the founder of the school and we opened up other culinary schools. About two years ago, when the founder retired, he kind of put me in charge of the Syosset campus.

What makes the school such a great place for aspiring chefs?
The hands-on training and the accelerated program that we offer. It’s a nine-month certificate program, which is almost like two semesters at a regular college. If you go to a culinary program at a two-year college, you really get two semesters of your core classes and then two semesters of the basics–English, science and math–we’ve kind of taken that out so we’re a true trade school. We also have an externship portion of the program [which lets students] take what they’ve learned and apply it pretty quickly in real-life experiences.

What types of food do they make at the school?
They make all kinds of food. Most culinary schools are based on classic French cuisine so we focus on that, but they’ll make Italian, they’ll make Indian, they’ll make sushi, they’ll pull fresh mozzarella. You name it, they’ll do it. We have a professional baking and pastry arts program as well.

What are some of your favorite Long Island restaurants?
I live in Huntington so there’s a dozen restaurants within a half mile of my house. But, I have a pretty eclectic taste. I’ll go for sushi one night and then Indian food another night and steak another night.

What are you most looking forward to about Island Tasting?
I love the tasting events. For us it’s tasting all the different foods, and, I will tell you, for me it’s seeing all the restaurants that we already have relationships with.