Top Chef Canada. You watch it for weeks, you root for your favourites, and experience despair when the ones you really like get eliminated. But what happens after the cameras stop rolling and the finale airs? I set out to find out.
Today, we check in with Chef Matthew Stowe, who won the most recent round of Top Chef Canada (season 3) on June 10. I first interviewed Matt shortly after the third season started airing, and then I got to attend the finale viewing party at the newly-opened Coal Harbour Cactus Club Cafe, and was there for the big reveal.
Lots has happened for Matt in the last 6 months, not the least of which is that he and his wife, Amber, are expecting their second child in the spring. The CIA graduate continues on in his role as the Product Development Chef at the Cactus Club Cafe.
I recently caught up with Matt for a chat about what has transpired since that fateful day in June.
RC: So, first off, how has your life changed since winning Top Chef Canada?
MS: It has definitely been a bit overwhelming. I knew it was the Food Network’s top rated show but I had no idea the broad audience it appealed to. I meet people every day that are fans of the show, everyone from young children to seniors.
RC: I’m sure everyone wants to know what you did with the money. You guys bought a house?
MS: Well I wanted to buy season tickets to the Seahawks, but with a second baby on the way that dream died pretty quick. My wife (Amber) definitely deserves a holiday. She worked incredibly hard while I was away filming and I owe her big time. The rest of the money I will invest for the future.
RC: What is the coolest experience you’ve had over the last few months that was a direct result of winning Top Chef?
MS: It was really memorable working with Covenant House this summer: I spent a day there teaching the street-involved youth about life-skills in the kitchen. I showed them how to make three different meals using one rotisserie chicken. The kids were great, and some of them had impressive cooking skills! I have also been asked to go to Korea for 2 weeks in January to promote big Canadian exports such as beef, pork, lobster and maple syrup which will be very exciting.
RC: How did Top Chef influence your work as a chef?
MS: Being on the show has helped inspire me to be more creative and innovative on the spot while working at the Cactus Club Cafe test kitchen. I definitely was able to hone in my efficiency skills and to be quick thinking on my feet. As a product development chef, learning to be more resourceful has been a good thing in order to come up with new menu item ideas using fresh, sustainable and when possible local ingredients.
RC: Do you still keep in touch with the other contestants?
MS: Definitely. I just returned from participating in the Visa Infinite dinner series where I was cooking alongside past winners of Top Chef Canada, and I also regularly keep in touch with the other final four contestants, Jonathan, Danny Smiles, and Dennis. If you think about it, only 48 people in Canada have had the experience of being on Top Chef Canada. Now, when I visit other cities, odds are there is someone there and I try to look them up.
RC: How are Gavin and Amber doing? Is Gavin aware that his dad is a star?
MS: They’re doing great, and of course we’re very happy to have a second baby on the way. Amber and Gavin do get recognized in our community as a result of having been on the final episode of the show, which is fun for them. Gavin’s still a little too young to fully understand, but maybe we’ll watch some reruns when he gets a little older for some father-son bonding.
RC: What are the future plans for Top Chef Matt Stowe?
MS: Of course, like any chef, one day I’d like to open my own restaurant, but since winning Top Chef Canada we’ve had an exciting and busy year at Cactus Club Cafe. We opened new locations in Langley and also recently in Edmonton on Jasper Avenue. Moving ahead my focus is working with the culinary team on the future openings which will be in Saskatoon, Toronto, and also in Calgary.
RC: Thanks, Matt! All the best!
Up next, I check with Trevor Bird, who came in second place of Season 2 of Top Chef Canada, and has since opened up FABLE on W 4th.