For Andrew Cowan, co-chef and -owner of Northern Chicken, there’s nothing else he’d rather do than cook, as it’s technically the only job he’s ever had. At 15, he started as a dishwasher on a golf course in Ontario and eventually worked his way up to cooking. “I wasn’t planning on being a chef when I was working there,” admits Cowan, “but I eventually started really loving it and having a good, fun time.”
Cowan says he enjoys working in a kitchen for the camaraderie: “I come from a sports background and [cooking] was a very team-orientated job — we won as a team, we lost as a team.” It’s fitting that after working as a chef for Packrat Louie and other restaurants, he’d team up with his good friend Matt Phillips to open this new fried-chicken-focused venture. “We’d worked together at Century Hospitality Group and we’re both really into fried chicken,” says Cowan. He believes the partnership works well because they come from slightly different backgrounds. “Matt’s spent a lot of time in the corporate sector, and I’ve done a few more independents,” explains Cowan. “Matt’s very good at the business side of things and that’s kind of my weakness.”
Why the bond over, and focus on, fried chicken though? It’s good, old-fashioned comfort food. “I remember eating Kentucky Fried Chicken with my grandma back home on weekends,” explains Cowan. “Those were good times and good memories.” Everything they serve at Northern Chicken — including the spice blends, mayos, and even the sweet pickles — is made from scratch except for the bread, which Cowan is hoping to create a program for later.
Cowan appreciates the support he’s received from the Edmonton community, as the fried-chicken concept began with pop-up nights at local restaurants. “I think it goes to show the dining scene in Edmonton is really coming along, and it’s more of a community than it used to be,” says Cowan. In turn, Cowan loves eating and exploring all that Edmonton has to offer. Among his top recommendations are Tres Carnales and the brunch at Workshop Eatery. “I enjoy trying all the places I can around town,” says Cowan, “There are so many awesome new places opening up, it’s hard to keep on top of them all.” —Matthew Stepanic