Story by Erik Potter
This past August, when Matthia Accurso stepped into the University Club on his first day as executive chef, it was a homecoming of sorts.
Accurso grew up in Columbia. As a kid, he liked to ride his bike around campus. He started working at the U Club in high school. He took culinary classes at Hickman High School, and his mentor there, Jeff Rayl, helped him get the job. He worked under former executive chef Daniel Pliska, who retired this past spring. When Accurso enrolled at Mizzou, he stayed on staff. By the time he graduated — in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration — he was a veteran employee.
Life took Accurso east after Mizzou, first to Washington, D.C, and most recently to Amherst, Massachusetts, where he was the executive chef of retail dining for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Along the way, he picked up certifications from the Culinary Institute of America.
After seven years in Massachusetts and two kids — and a third on the way — the job of executive chef at the University Club opened up.
Moving back close to family was appealing, as was staying in a higher-education setting. After years in the culinary business, the university job fits a shift Accurso has been experiencing in what energizes him about his work.
“When you start out you’re motivated by learning; being exposed to so much new information is fun, and you can express yourself,” he says. Now, however, he is more motivated by teaching and helping other aspiring chefs. “That’s a big part of it — creating an environment where people can learn, grow and develop.”
Of course that also means delivering on a quality dining experience.
“I hope the U Club can continue to support the campus by providing a relaxing environment where our members can network and hopefully have a good meal or two,” Accurso says.
To be able to do that while coming back home is all the better.