CORNER BROOK Matthew Krizan, now an award-winning chef, dreams of being able to open a restaurant in his former hometown of Corner Brook.
Krizan, and his family, arrived in the western Newfoundland city from Bratislava, in what was then Czechoslovakia, in the late 1980s. It was in that European country he has his first memories of cooking from his mother’s kitchen.
The Slovakian and Hungarian dishes continued when his parents, Anna and Igor, moved to Corner Brook. However, it was here those delicacies expanded to include local seafood and other meals of a North American flavour.
“With a European background, food is not just something you put in your gut, but you are proud of putting it on the plate as well,” Krizan said. “It’s a culture of itself in Europe. I have always just had an interest in cooking.”
After graduating from Herdman Collegiate, he dabbled in some studies at Memorial University before heading to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa. He completed his degree at Le Cordon Bleu Paris Cooking School in London, England.
His chef experience began in Newfoundland, where he cooked at the Glynmill Inn for a few years in the mid-to-late ’90s, as well as the Stonehouse in St. John’s for a time. He moved on to other high quality kitchens in Nova Scotia and Ottawa, before making a career change.
Krizan spent about a decade working in Iqaluit in the information technology field. His heart remained in the kitchen, but it was those years he was able to find the financial stability to fulfill a dream — opening his own restaurant.
“I realized if I didn’t own my own place, it wouldn’t be as prestigious,” he said.
“You can go a bit further in life if you own your own place, and it becomes successful.”
The Mateus Bistro has sat in Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia for the past three years, where the former Corner Brooker works the grill and diners can watch their meals prepared.
Maybe it was the upbringing of having fresh fish and mushroom picking in the fall, but Krizan has continued to work with Nova Scotia’s farmers and fishermen to deliver fresh dishes with local produce. He also surely adds some of that European flare to his plates.
With obesity and diabetes a major concern in today’s world, this chef stresses the importance of fresh foods. He said support for local fisherman and farmers is growing slowly in Nova Scotia.
“It would be lovely to see that here in Newfoundland,” he said. “That’s one thing that needs to be pushed more and more, even funding for farmers to get them up and going. It’s a huge expense and commitment — just like owning a restaurant.”
More support for local could be further incentive for Krizan to realize another dream of his — opening a restaurant in Corner Brook.
“I would always, at some point, love to come home,” he said. “I definitely see a huge increase in tourism, especially in Corner Brook.”
Krizan is optimistic about the future of Corner Brook, especially because of a flourishing post-secondary industry
“I am excited about the younger Corner Brook,” he said. “It seems like it will hopefully kick-start the economy here a little bit.”
If that dream becomes a reality one day, Corner Brook will be home to an award-winning chef. Krizan captured first place in the fifth annual Taste of Nova Scotia Cutting Edge Culinary Competition held in late April. He was named best of 10 chefs chosen for the cook-off in the black-box competition.
The prize included a magazine feature in the Saltscapes Magazine and a high-calibre knife set. However, it is the increased notoriety that Krizan said is most beneficial to a chef and restaurant owner.
“With the tourist season starting up, it gives us a great little buzz around,” he said. “People are talking about it. It definitely gets more people through the door.”