People to Watch: Matthew Heaggans

From the August 7, 2014 edition

Matthew Heaggans knows the allure of the “life-long dream” narrative, but while he says his life doesn’t fit that bill, we’d say it does. He’s been interested in food and cooking most of his life, he said, skipping his studies to watch Emeril and fostering a love for soul food during a stint living in North Carolina. Now Heaggans looks back on those moments as pivotal steps toward the creation of Swoop Food Group, his company hell-bent on serving local food that looks as good as it tastes.

The journey to company owner and chef wasn’t easy, though. Heaggans left his job to journey to D.C., where he felt he could foster his cooking skills before heading back home to start his own culinary business. With a cantankerous French chef to teach him, he succeeded. However, with his mother’s sudden work accident, Heaggans cut his D.C. trip and headed back to Columbus in 2010.

Heaggans used that time to haggle a deal on a food truck to serve his creations, the first step in his entrepreneurial goals. “I’ve been on the march to open brick-and-mortar since I came back, but I’ve had a long introduction with the city to assess and figure out what the Columbus, Ohio, style of food is,” he said. “But I want to marry my own personal culinary aesthetic with what people here like to eat.”

After nearly two years in the biz, Heaggans is now expanding with pop-up shops in local eateries like German Village’s Hey Hey and Clintonville’s Ace of Cups.

“I feel comfortable saying that we’re putting out some of the best food in Columbus, and we’re doing that consistently,” he said. “It’s local, so offerings change weekly. But it’s always new and fresh.”

And, he hopes, in two years, he can offer that menu in his own restaurant.

“Timelines, I have found, are tricky things,” he said. “When I can be a little more solid and assertive, I am going to be very excited to introduce it.”