It’s been five years since Matthew Stowe was named Top Chef Canada in the season 3 finale of the Food Network’s popular show. Stowe graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and interned at New York’s famed French Restaurant, Lutèce. Today, he’s the Director of Culinary Operations for The Joseph Richard Group (JRG), one of British Columbia’s fastest growing food, beverage and entertainment organizations. The chef, family man, cookbook author and Surrey native took time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.
We’d love to know how it all began! Where did your love of food originate from and how was it fostered?
There were two people who had huge influences on why I became a chef. I grew up in a home with great food. My mother was an excellent cook and seeing the impact that food made on people was very inspiring. I am the oldest of 6 so cooking for 8 people every night is no easy feat. Secondly, I went to high school at Lord Tweedsmuir and they had a chef training program. I originally took the course so I could survive when I moved out on my own (I wanted to be a sports broadcaster). I quickly learned to love the environment of a professional kitchen and the instructor, Guy Ethier took me under his wing and really inspired me to pursue it as a career.
Can you tell us what it was like to grow up in the Cloverdale neighbourhood of Surrey?
I really couldn’t have thought of a better place to grow up. My parents were big on putting us in organized sports at an early age so I played hockey, soccer and baseball in the community. Having great schools in the community also had a huge impact. I went to elementary school at Cloverdale Elementary (now Cloverdale Traditional School) and like I said above, Lord Tweedsmuir. I think having a high school that focuses heavily on trades is an excellent resource for students.
What was a favorite childhood dish growing up?
I loved my mom’s roast beef dinner. She made the best Yorkshire pudding! We would have it often, especially when grandparents or other family was over. Food isn’t just about the food you are eating but who you are enjoying it with. I remember roast beef dinners always brought our family together.
Did your parents ever let you experiment in the kitchen?
Yes my mom always let me help her out from a very early age. I remember one time I was home alone (which was rare with 5 brothers and sisters). I was probably around 12 and we didn’t have any bread in the house. I found a recipe and made a baguette from scratch just so I could make a sandwich.
What’s it like being on reality TV?
It was definitely different having cameras around all the time, especially outside of the kitchen. I remember waking up in the morning and a camera guy would be standing over me. During the cooking challenges I was always so focused and under the gun that I never had time to notice them, which was nice. When the episodes would air, it was always a bit nerve-racking not knowing how they would be edited and what footage the producers would use. Overall, it was a lot of fun watching how the season unfolded.
What would be your ultimate career dream?
I would love to open my own restaurant. Celebrating the hard work that our farmers and food producers put in and cooking for local people in the community where I grew up has always been a dream of mine.