Eating It Up: MATC Culinary Graduate Relishing Running the Kitchen

South Milwaukee native serving as executive chef for hometown catering operation

Mark Feldmann,

April 03, 2024

Connor Murdoch

I think I was prepared for the real world because I was in the real world and school at the same time. Work prepared me for school and school prepared me for work.

Connor Murdoch MATC Culinary Arts graduate, executive chef at Skyline Catering and Bucyrus Club

In August 2010, 15-year-old Connor Murdoch spent his time playing video games, hitting golf balls, riding Kawasaki motorcycles and cooking food. That year, the South Milwaukee High School freshman also created his Facebook account and made his very first post: “Started New Job at Cousins Subs.”

“I discovered there was such a thing as cooking for money,” Murdoch recalled. “When I saw the big lunch crowd for the first time, it energized me. My co-workers weren’t thrilled about how busy it got, but I absolutely loved it.”

Murdoch has turned his passion for food into a profession. He earned an associate degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College’s well-regarded Culinary Arts program and honed his skills at two highly respected steakhouses in Milwaukee.

And today, at 28 years old, Murdoch is in charge of an entire kitchen as executive chef for Skyline Catering and the Bucyrus Club in his hometown, South Milwaukee.

“While he was pretty young to become our executive chef, we felt his background, his ambition, his credentials, his enthusiasm, his work ethic and his genuine desire to be a leader within our family of fantastic team members was exactly what we were looking for to build our brand and our future,” said Ernest C. Wunsch, owner of Skyline and the Bucyrus Club. 

“Most chefs are job changers over their careers,” Wunsch added. “What really impressed me was that after a year of being with our team and trying out his leadership skills, Connor was convinced that our company would be his forever home.”

“I want this to be my last job,” Murdoch agreed. “This job checks all the boxes. Half the week I work during the day and can be home by 4 p.m. to be with my kids. Other days, we have events and weddings at the club. It’s been the best of all worlds.”

As executive chef, Murdoch designed many of the dishes on the catering menu to feed and nourish meetings, events and weddings. He also created sandwiches for a small deli that operates within the club and a unique fish fry that has packed the club to the gills on Fridays. 

“The owners here have really let me put my own stamp on things,” Murdoch said. “They’ve allowed me a lot of freedom to be creative.”

Murdoch discovered his culinary creativity with his father, who cooked breakfast on weekends and tended the grill on summer nights. As a youngster, Murdoch stood on a chair, hovered over the stove and helped make bacon and scrambled eggs. 

“He inspired me,” Murdoch said about his father. “He loves what I make. He gives me honest reviews. He’s not a stuffy foodie at all. He’s just a South Milwaukee guy who likes to eat.”

After graduating from South Milwaukee High School in 2014, Murdoch attended a summer camp at MATC for high school students interested in culinary careers, and then he got a job at Dream Dance Steakhouse inside Milwaukee’s Potawatomi Casino Hotel. He worked there full-time while attending classes at MATC.

“I think I was prepared for the real world because I was in the real world and school at the same time,” Murdoch said. “Work prepared me for school and school prepared me for work.”

At MATC, Murdoch learned proper cooking procedures, how to respect ingredients, to pay attention to detail and, more importantly, to have the right mindset: “You really have to love it,” he said.

“Connor’s desire and passion were evident when he was in our program,” said Paul J. Carrier, lead faculty and department chairperson of MATC’s Culinary Arts program. “That passion has carried him to great success, and he’s continuing that at Bucyrus and Skyline.”

After graduating from MATC in May 2017, he started working full time at Dream Dance. After the COVID pandemic struck, he took a job at Eldr+Rime, another Milwaukee steakhouse. He got married to his wife, Ashley. His son, Leo, was born in 2021 and his daughter, Ellie, in 2022.

With a family to support, he walked away from the kitchen and took a daytime job at Aurora Health Center. He lasted six months. 

“I had to get out. I couldn’t do it,” he said, shaking his head. “I just couldn’t sit at a desk all day and click buttons. Sometimes cooking feels like an addiction, and I need to do it.”

And he plans to keep doing it. He loves it so much that he cooks on his days off. 

“I still like to impress my wife,” he said with a laugh. “Plus, I have yet to find a food I don’t like to eat.”

Find out more about MATC’s Culinary Arts program

About MATC: Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 30,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 180 academic programs — many that prepare students for jobs immediately upon completion and others that provide transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.