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Cloverdale: home of the nation’s next Top Chef?

Cloverdale’s Matthew Stowe will compete on season three of Top Chef Canada, which premieres March 18. - Top Chef Canada/Food Network Canada photo
Cloverdale’s Matthew Stowe will compete on season three of Top Chef Canada, which premieres March 18.
— image credit: Top Chef Canada/Food Network Canada photo

By Kristine Salzmann

Canada’s next Top Chef could hail from Cloverdale.

Matthew Stowe is one of 16 chefs from across the country who will compete in season three of Top Chef Canada, set to air March 18 on Food Network Canada.

Stowe, 30, says he’s had a number of great opportunities from a young age that enabled him to hone his culinary skills – and he wanted to see how he measured up against other chefs across the country.

“I’d watched the last couple of seasons. Now it was time to put my money where my mouth was,” he says.

The Cloverdale resident got his start cooking at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary’s culinary program under the guidance of instructor Guy Ethier.

Through the program, Stowe found work placements at the Pan Pacific Hotel and Fairmont Vancouver, and continued to work at the latter through his senior year. Ethier also enrolled him in competitions Stowe otherwise wouldn’t have heard of – ones he went on to win.

His father encouraged him to move to New York after graduating in 2000 and attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

While at the CIA he interned at Lutèce, a classic French restaurant where he was given much more responsibility than he might have received elsewhere.

“I was a student doing the work of two guys in a really high end restaurant with luxurious products,” he says. “I figured most of my classmates would have this opportunity, but when I got back to the school I realized I had had a really great experience.”

He was hired at Lutèce after graduation, eventually coming back to B.C. to work at Sonora Resort, a luxury wilderness resort only accessible by helicopter, sea plane, or by boat from Campbell River.

At only 22-years-old, Stowe was the executive chef at a resort then undergoing a massive renovation and rebranding – he was even involved in designing the new kitchen.

“We did some really, really great food up there and got in touch with a lot of local suppliers. Because my experience was in New York, I wasn’t as educated as to what we were producing in B.C. It was a great eye opener,” he says.

Stowe worked at Sonora from 2004 to 2010. While there, he wrote a cookbook documenting the dishes through the course of a season at the resort (The Tastes of Sonora Resort), and in 2009 Sonora was granted a prestigious Relais & Chateaux designation.

The lure of settling down and starting a family led Stowe back to Cloverdale permanently. Today, he works at Cactus Club Cafe developing menu items for the Canadian restaurant chain with Executive Chef Rob Feenie.

Being in product development, he is also one of the few chefs who can enjoy regular work hours, which allows him to spend more time with his wife and 19-month-old son Gavin.

Eventually he hopes to open his own restaurant, perhaps south of the Fraser.

“I would like to do something in this area,” he says. “There’s a lot of people out here who appreciate good food. It’s nice for people to not have to drive to the city [Vancouver] to have the same dining experience.”

Hometown viewers rooting for Stowe this spring can hope his varied experience with high end and casual dining will give him a leg up on the competition.

While what Stowe can say about filming Top Chef Canada is limited, he valued the opportunity to meet a number of the people he has looked up to on television, such as judge Mark McEwan.

He also says the competition was intense.

“It was definitely more difficult than it looked on TV.”

Top Chef Canada premieres March 18, 10 p.m. PT on Food Network Canada. The winning chef takes home $100,000 and thousands of dollars in other prizes.

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