Chef Matthew Stowe gives students at Lord Tweedmuir Secondary some firsthand cooking instruction at the school Tuesday.

Chef Matthew Stowe gives students at Lord Tweedmuir Secondary some firsthand cooking instruction at the school Tuesday.

Top Chef Canada contender returns to his culinary roots

Matthew Stowe cooks alongside Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary students in Surrey.

It’s usually complicated land use issues, inches-thick staff reports, or contentious zoning amendments that demand the attention of Surrey city council.

But on Tuesday, the only topics being tabled were roasted chicken-bacon roulade, mushroom ravioli, and home-made ricotta cheese, along with brown hazelnuts, asparagus, and wild onions.

These were just some of the sumptuous dishes prepared for Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and members of council by Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary culinary arts students and possibly the next best chef in the country.

On May 28, Matthew Stowe, a competitor on the current season of Top Chef Canada, worked alongside students to prepare the meal.

It was homecoming for Stowe, a Cloverdale native and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary grad (Class of 2000).

A product of the school’s culinary arts program, Stowe left the Lower Mainland for New York at age 18 to attend the Culinary Institute of America, interning at a classic French restaurant that later hired him. He returned to B.C. to work as the executive chef at Sonora resort from 2004 to 2010, and now develops menu items for Cactus Club Cafe restaurants.

Stowe, 30, is the last remaining B.C.-based contestant on the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada. His superb skills and driven-yet-likable personality have made him a viewer favourite on the popular show (airing on the Food Network Mondays at 10 p.m. PST). The show is pulling in 1.8 to 2 million viewers an episode.

Stowe said it was great getting back to his culinary roots.

“It was because of that start at Tweedsmuir that I’m kind of where I am today,” he said, praising the school’s culinary program – a trades program with a co-op component that enabled him to land a job at the Hotel Vancouver and set him on his skyrocketing career path.

“It’s like going full circle, starting where it all began,” he said Tuesday. “I really wanted to work with the students… it’s great seeing the looks on these guys’ faces when they try the food and some products that they may not have had before.”

Josh Hutton, a Grade 12 student at Lord Tweedsmuir, has been involved in the culinary arts program for three semesters and says he has learned a lot.

“I like the whole atmosphere (of cooking)… it’s a fun time – working hard in the kitchen.”

Hutton admires Stowe for his accomplishments and says he showed the students some tasty tricks for Tuesday’s meal.

“We learned how to do ravioli… it sounds like a good recipe.”

Guests from the Surrey School District were also on hand to tuck into lunch.

Win or lose the Top Chef Canada competition – and though ending has been taped, Stowe’s not talking – Stowe said is glad he did it, and notes the experience has led to more opportunities to teach people of all ages about food and the ins-and-outs of how restaurants work.

Stowe lives in Clayton with his wife Amber and two-year-old son Gavin.