A couple of years ago, Matt Beasley made a surprising career move: he left his prestigious position as head chef at the highly acclaimed ONE Restaurant in Toronto to helm the kitchen at Aberdeen Tavern, in his hometown of Hamilton. Fast forward to today, and Aberdeen Tavern, set in an old bank near downtown, is one of Hamilton’s prime dining destinations (seriously: don’t expect to get in for Sunday brunch without a reservation). A sleek, comfortable spot, the restaurant features an ever-changing menu inspired by regional ingredients, and Beasley’s imagination.
What made you decide to become a chef?
I just fell into it, to be honest. I needed a job when I was 16. A local restaurant was hiring all positions and I took a job washing dishes. Then I fell in love with it, but it took a while. I went to university for criminology and was planning to be a police officer, but I found I was in the kitchen more than I was in class.
How would you describe your approach to cooking?
I cook comfort food, prepared well. I’d rather impress people with the best mashed potatoes they’ve had in their lives [instead of offering them] a lamb brain ravioli, which is also very cool and very delicious, but you’re not going to get customers coming in five days a week for lamb brain ravioli. They’re going to come in five days a week for a good steak and some properly prepared vegetables.
What’s the best part about being a chef in Hamilton?
In the last few years, the city has really picked up steam. In Toronto, the food scene is just so dense because there’s so much going on there all the time. It’s hard to stand out. One restaurant goes, one comes in; whereas here, everything is still new and exciting. Everyone seems really happy new restaurants are opening up, and there are new experiences. You feel appreciated, which is very cool.
How would you define Hamilton cuisine right now?
It’s an eclectic mix in terms of what chefs are doing, but mostly it’s honest food. There are no tricks. Obviously there’s a bit of play, but people are just cooking good, tasty food.
What do you love most about your hometown?
There’s something for everyone here, and we’re getting that youthful vibrancy back in the city. It’s great.
Beasley’s Favourite Hamilton Restaurants
“My wife loves to take my daughter there for brunch.”
“Make sure to try the cauliflower taco. It’s awesome.”
“You can barely fit three guys in the kitchen, but the burgers are solid.”