Lessons en Français
Sara Waxman finds that French cuisine is alive and well in the joie de vivre of Montreal
France's best chefs cook it up at Montréal en Lumière
In mid winter, Montreal en Lumiere, the renowned annual food and wine festival, takes over the city with delectable dining that speaks eloquent French with a Quebecois accent. Food and wine is one of the six deities in Montreal, along with religion, hockey, dancing, cycling and l’amour. The most renowned chefs from Lyon in France, the featured city, and Michelin star chefs from the Delice Network have come to Canada to commemorate Montreal’s 375th anniversary. Illuminating their C.V.S, they’ve gathered to cook, to dine and to share the delicious stardust that is French cuisine. To Montrealers and visiting foodies this is a dream come true.
Chef Christophe Lherm, of Les Trois Domes in Lyon presents a magnificent menu at Renoir that includes truffle farm-raised poultry; a citrus zest lobster with pink grapefruit and ginger jelly in an extravagant style that speaks of Renoir. Shall we eat it or frame it? At Le Bouchon Lyonnais, Chef Joseph Viola, M.O.F., of Daniel and Denise in Lyon, shows us a new respect for fresh whole fish and addictive fried potatoes. Artfully curated wines accompany the menus at all participating restaurants.
Maison Bouloud in the Ritz Carlton Hotel is the hot ticket in town. Here, the venerated Jérôme Bocuse and Christophe Muller of Auberge du Pont des Collanges in Lyon join with Chef Daniel Bouloud and Riccardo Bertolino to create outstanding evenings of gastronomy and wine to a sold out venue.
“To be honest,” says Jerome Bocuse, “As a child I had no inspiration to become a chef.” Having watched how hard his father, Paul Bocuse, had worked from early morning to late at night, he was not interested. “I was skiing at a very high level, and had an accident,
“Whatever level you are working, whether it’s at a simple kitchen or a three-star restaurant, you have to give the same love; the same discipline” —JÉRÔME BOCUSE
then I realized that my career as an athlete was over.” Jérôme studied at the CIA in New York, then spent 20 years in Orlando, in charge of the restaurants at the French Pavilion at the Epcot Center introducing Americans to haute French cuisine.
The corps of servers at Maison Bouloud impresses us with their manners as each course is presented with deserved flourish. Dinner begins with an elegant overture: delicate Lobster Nage, Puilly-fuisse, cream of cauliflower with ginger, a dollop of Oscietra caviar, and a glass of champagne. We’re honoured to have the opportunity to taste Soupe de Truffes Valery Giscard d’estaing. “This is an iconic dish my father did for the French President in 1975,” says Jerome, “and since we are in prime truffle season right now I think it was great to put this dish on the menu.”
Red Mullet, flown in from France, comes dressed to the nines in crusty potato scales beside a swath of rosemary cream. Chicken cooked in a bladder with fleurette sauce and morel mushroom rice and vegetables is an astonishing feat of culinary dexterity. A suitable ending to this extravaganza is the Queen of Reinette tatin with pistachio ice cream and saffron English cream.
Paul Bocuse was one of the first chefs involved in Lumiere in 2000, so Jérôme felt it was a good opportunity to attend. He tried Poutine, and says, “I’m glad I did,” he tells me, “Because we always need comfort food. The chef explained where he farmed his potatoes, and took great pride in telling me how he made the cheese and sauce. “I felt connected to this. That’s what it’s all about. Whatever level you are working, whether it’s at a simple kitchen or a three-star restaurant, you have to give the same love; the same discipline.” Paul Bocuse is over 90 years old and still has chefs coming to him for advice. He tells them, “Go back to the kitchen.” Jérôme feels that a lot of chefs don’t know about cooking anymore, “it’s just about business and cameras.” He is faithful to his father’s cuisine. “Our team shares his values. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel; we’re just going to make sure the wheels keep on spinning. When you ask my father, what did you change in 50 or 60 years, he says, nothing but the sheets in my bed.” Jerome truly believes that the younger generation will know about classic cuisine, “Because it’s not trendy; it’s like music or art. There will always be a place for Mozart, and there will always be a place for classic cuisine.”