POUR UNE GASTRONOMIE DURABLE
ENCOURAGING SUSTAINABLE GASTRONOMY
Rencontre avec un pionnier de l’utilisation des produits régionaux et des espèces marines durables en gastronomie, de retour dans nos pages pour le 10e anniversaire de notre publication.
In its very first edition, in 2006, the Guide-Magazine presented an interview with Normand Laprise, chef of the reputed Montréal restaurant Toqué! For the journal’s 10th anniversary, we wanted to offer our readers the gift of a new interview with this pioneering advocate for the use of regional products and sustainable marine species in gastronomy.
Delighted that some local and regional foods are now being used more often at restaurants in Québec, Chef Laprise says there are several explanations for this recent, but growing trend. First of all, better availability. “What’s been achieved in terms of fruit and vegetables is fantastic! We can get Québec strawberries five to six months per year,” he says by way of example, while pointing out that in the past they were in season only about three weeks.
He also mentions the flourishing complicity between young chefs. “They understand that they depend on the regions if they want to create great cuisine and so they build bridges with them.” Finally, Chef Laprise points to the consumer’s contribution. “People strive constantly to improve their diet and eating locally-sourced foods is one solution. You have to ask where it comes from, how it’s been processed if you want to be sure you’re eating well.”
TRACEABILITY AND MAXIMISATION
By banking on the relationship of trust he has built with a certain number of producers, Chef Laprise ensures the quality and consistency of the meat he uses. “All farmers make decisions regarding how they invest in their animals: do they try to get their animals to grow twice as fast by feeding them hormones and antibiotics? Or raise 100-percent purebred animals, outside and with a better quality of life?”
According to Chef Laprise, there’s still much to be done in the area of meat traceability. Not only would it help consumers make informed choices, he also believes it could be a source of added value for producers. They would obtain recognition for their efforts and the quality of their products, but also better prices.
The effort to stop food wastage is another one of the chef’s crusades. “We order the entire lamb… and we use the whole carcass from A to Z, even the nose! We have to make the most of our products.”
SMALL MARINE SPECIES ON THE MENU
In March 2015, Chef Laprise attended a meeting in Spain, organised as part of Oceana’s Save the Oceans and Feed the World campaign. He and twenty other internationally renowned chefs discussed actions that would support sustainable fishing; one of these is to promote the consumption of small fish species that reproduce quickly. “It takes three to four pounds of small fish like anchovies and sardines to produce a single one-pound salmon,” he says by way of illustration.
According to the chef, herring and mackerel are small Québec species that should be served more often. In fact, they appear on the menu at Toqué! whenever possible, next to other Gaspé Peninsula marine species such as the razor clam, whelk and sea urchin, which have all been certified as Smarter Seafood1 in 2015.
As for the Gaspé Peninsula lobster fishery, in March 2015, it was certified as sustainable and well-managed by the Marine Stewardship Council. Like lobster from elsewhere in Québec, it has been marketed with a tag guaranteeing its provenance (see the article by Hélène Raymond on page 16) since 2012. “It’s a wild species. Traceability has to be guaranteed,” points out Chef Laprise, who appreciates its meat. “It inhabits rocky sea beds in cold water, so it needs to expend more energy to feed, making it very flavourful.”
THE DISTRIBUTION CHALLENGE
Always on the lookout for delicious foods from our terroir, Chef Laprise points to the problem of transportation. “It takes a distributor to make the connection between producer and chef,” he says. However, he salutes the work being done in this area by Société-Orignal2, a creative Québec platform that fosters the development and distribution of food products.
Working closely with “families and humansized businesses”, the Montréal enterprise orders foods from them for niche markets, making it a point of honour to offer them a fair price. These products are then sold by Société-Orignal through its online boutique or shipped to shops and restaurants in Montréal, New York and Toronto. “Société-Orignal brings together a fine range of products,” concludes Chef Laprise. Some honoured Gaspé Peninsula families and small businesses, including the Mathar-Jacob family (Douglastown), the Arbours (Bonaventure), the Normands (Mont-Louis) and Pêcheries Gaspésiennes (Rivière-au-Renard), will certainly be familiar to our readers...
1. The Smarter Seafood program (exploramer.qc.ca/en/ smarter-seafood), introduced in 2009 by Exploramer in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, produces an annual list of the St. Lawrence marine species that meet sustainable development criteria.