Name: Matt Cowan
City: Hamilton, ON
Where are you from?
Currently residing in Hamilton, ON. Have lived all over Ontario and spent some time in the Rockies.
Where do you currently work?
I’m the Chef Proprietor of The Heather in Hamilton. We’re a 12 seat restaurant offering a seven-course set menu.
How long have you been in the culinary industry?
Just over 20 years
If you could work with any other Chef in the world for one night who would it be?
If you could visit any restaurant in the world where would it be?
Who is your mentor, if you have one?
I would say I have two. The first Chef I ever worked for, Beth Hunt. She, as of just recently, was the Chef Proprietor at The Globe just outside of Alliston. The second would be Paul Benallick; I worked under him at Steakfrites (now closed, was an O&B restaurant on Mt. Pleasant). They’re both still a big part of who I’ve become as a Chef and are dear friends.
Why do you feel MADE WITH LOVE, as a cocktail competition, is important for the Industry in Toronto?
MADE WITH LOVE gives talented bartenders the ability to expose their incredible creations at a national level.
What is the skill you look for in a competitor when you are judging?
Knowledge of the spirit they’re dealing with and how to manipulate it in the most flavorful and creative way, while not masking the base spirits flavor profile. Cleanliness and organization are also major factors to me while working!
What is the most impressive thing you have ever seen a bartender do?
I can’t think of one single event. I’m impressed by a bartender who has a deep knowledge of his craft and of the spirits he using. Someone that both respects tradition but is forward thinking and creative in his craft. Also, on the spot creativity is also always fun to watch.
What’s the most frequent error competitors do in a competition?
Let the pressure get to them and lose focus!
What’s the biggest challenge a judge has?
Trying to make sure to judge with an unbiased opinion. I’m a bourbon drinker, but I can’t favor bourbon cocktails.
What is the most precious advice you could give to a competitor?
Keep calm, stay focused, don’t complicate things. Less is often more.