Slicing tomatoes and onions, mixing ground beef with secret spice combos, hand cutting potatoes into perfect French fry slices, and warming handmade buns to perfection: Working at a high end burger joint requires more than just flipping patties. Burger fabrication is an art that only cooking experience can help you with. For 21 year old Wesley, finding new ways to gain experience is how he got to his sous-chef position at Montreal's Burger Bar.
I am an avid gardener and I have been for at least five years now. It is the feel of dirt between my fingers, the hopefulness of having a plant sprout out of the ground, and the pride when that plant blooms which keeps me gardening year after year. Gardening brings with it a sense of determination and an appreciation of nature. I live on a small cattle farm which brings with it its own amount of awe; however, gardening introduced me to a new world filled with insects, birds, and pesky rodents. Insects that I had never seen before found their way in between my tiger lilies and my rosebushes. Caterpillars hung out on milkweed leaves, and humming birds would occasionally reveal their presence by a quick glint of green feathers as they themselves found something to eat.
All photos in this post are courtesy of Adam Castonguay Photography
I attended a private event at La Champagnerie on Monday, February 17th as part of the John Molson Undergraduate Case Competition (read more). For those interested in hosting an event there, I would not recommend having over 150 people as we were 160 and it was completely packed. Both restaurant and bar, La Champagnerie is beautifully located on rue Saint-Paul in Old Montreal, literally across the street from Marche Bonsecours. It's a great place to take tourists!
The space itself is very cool. There are two bars and two semi-levels. The main bar is in the centre of the main room and is surrounded by small tables to the side where you can sit in small groups. At the back of the venue, there is a second level with a second bar and large booths that are perfect for getting bottle service with a group of friends. The front end of the restaurant offers little windowed alcoves that are the perfect setting for a romantic date.
In a 140-year old building that was used as the centre of a vast telegraphic system, an original concept, Atelier and Saveurs, has been in operations since 2008. This building is located in Old Montreal, where activity choices are endless. Horse ride around town? No problem. Fireworks over the water while enjoying a poutine? Sure. Infinite dining and entertainment options? Old Montreal may be "old" but it is definitely keeping the city young by providing Montrealers with a beautiful area, filled with history to enjoy a night (or day!) out on the town.
Even with the clutter of activity options, Atelier & Saveurs adds something special to the city. Located on the bottom floor of the historic and award-winning Telegraph building, it provides cooking, cocktails and wine appreciation lessons in a beautifully designed setting.
Ateliers & Saveurs (A&S) offers a wide range of different workshops that correspond to several levels of expertise. From half-hour sessions for people on a tight schedule ($20) to two-hour elaborate lessons on specialty cuisine ($55-$75), A&S can evidently cater to a diverse group of individuals.
The "Fancy Tapas" Workshop
In the "Fancy Tapas" workshop, students are encouraged to make four types of tapas (small portion entrees) and a unique dessert, all while enjoying a few complimentary glasses of wine. In a group setting of 12, faced by the head chef, all the ingredients come together to create tasty meals.
Following an informational demonstration by the head chef, each student is assigned a specific task to ensure participation by all. The workshop's stages follow the usual steps that take place when preparing a meal from the preparation to the assembly and finally, the tasting.
From simple chopping and marinating, participants' engagement results in an incredibly delicious product: sauté of mushrooms on crispy puff pastry with melting old cheddar, crispy mini-tortillas topped with guacamole and marinated shrimps, Shrimp tempura marinated in spicy mayonnaise and curry pepper salad, beef flank steak and balsamic caramelized onions over country bread toast and for desert, a deconstructed lemon tart.
Restrain from salivating, if possible.
The deconstructed lemon tart
Other note-worthy workshops include:
Follow the Chef...at the market ($95): Includes a chef-guided tour to the market to educate students on how to pick the best ingredients, followed by a cooking lesson using the ingredients purchased and then a tasting!
Pastry Delirium ($55): Bake 3-4 popular pastries and take them home to enjoy in a take-out box.
Private event workshop - Battle of the Chefs: The group is separated into two teams, accompanied by a chef to compete on making the best starter, main course and dessert. The group then dines together to decide which team cooked up the best meal.
The A&S Team
These innovative and collaborative workshops would not be possible, of course, without the talented A&S team, comprised of renowned chefs, mixologists and sommeliers. Head chef, Marc Bilodeau, received his education from one of the world's most prestigious culinary schools, Cordon Bleu Paris in Ottawa. Not only does he have a highly educated knowledge of food and extensive experience in the industry, but he also has a contagious, dynamic personality. His workshops include delicious, yet simple, recipes and useful cooking tips for every day use such as "Never wash your mushrooms in water because they are like little sponges. Use a brush or damp cloth to remove any dirt."
Although A&S gives you the option to schedule private events, the group workshops are of such an interactive nature that it brings a different dynamic as you cook with people with different cultural backgrounds, that you have just met.
A&S clearly has all the elements needed to create an unmatched customer experience with its qualified and dynamic staff, a lovely setting, as well as a long list of workshops that can suit almost anyone, even those not particularly fond of cooking! It is the perfect place to enjoy a fun, interactive activity with friends followed by the chance to indulge in your creations by kicking back in the dining room with a nice glass of wine selected by the sommelier to perfectly match the blend of ingredients. Taste buds exploded.
Recipe for Sauté of Mushrooms on Crispy Puff Pastry with Melting Old Cheddar
(Serves 4 persons)
Ingredients for the sauté of mushrooms
150 g Button mushroom(s)
150 g Shiitake(s)
1 unit Onion
1 clove Garlic
2 sprigs Thyme
100 ml White wine
100 ml Cream 35%
15 ml Grainy mustard
Ingredients for the crispy puff pastry bites
½ leave Puff pastry
75 g Old cheddar
Salt and pepper
1. General preparation (30 minutes - preheat oven to 400 F°)
Cut the button mushrooms into small dice. Remove the feet and slice shiitake mushrooms. Chop the white onion and garlic. Chop the thyme. Cut cheddar into 12 squares.
2. Crispy puff pastry preparation
Cut circles of puff pastry using a cookie cutter. Place the circles on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and cover with parchment paper and second baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
3. Sauté of mushrooms preparation
In a pan, drizzle some olive oil and add a knob of butter. Sauté the onions and the mushrooms over high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped thyme and cook a few minutes, until lightly browned. Add chopped garlic and cook for one minute before deglazing with white wine. Let reduce by half. Stir in cream and mustard. Simmer 3 to 4 until the sauce thickens.
4. To serve
Place the mixture on the circles of puff pastry then cover with a square of cheddar. Bake in the oven for 3-4 minutes to melt the cheese. Serve immediately.
Jordan Lebel, former restaurant reviewer and current Food Marketing professor at Concordia University, was kind enough to share his knowledge of the restaurant and food industry during a short chat earlier this week. His insights can provide a "behind the scenes" look of what it takes to succeed in this cut-throat competitve market.
As a restaurant reviewer, what was your thought process when trying out a new restaurant?
I served as an inspector for the Distinguished Restaurants of North America program (DiRoNA), funded by American Express, Hiram Walker and Tiffany. We had 5 pages of criteria that I also helped develop.
So the thought process was guided by the fact that we had to complete (after the visit) 5 pages of questions and notes. Essentially the thought process is to evaluate as objectively as possible the restaurant on food, service, experience and to separate the objective from our subjective value judgments.
©QMI / Jordan Lebel
There are few people that know exactly what they want to do with their life from a young age and dive into adventurous experiences to achieve their main objectives without hesitation. Jordan Lebel can surely be classified in this category of people. Since the age of 12, Lebel's passion for food was a prominent factor in his life. Regardless of his parents' worried opinions, he began working as a line cook in a local restaurant. Lebel's parents strongly encouraged him however to pursue higher education given the unsteady and misunderstood reputation of a career path in the restaurant industry. This encouragement resulted in Lebel pursuing a course in hospitality management, which eventually shaped him into the person he is today: an inspiring and renowned professor as well as a multi-skilled credible professional.
Having settled comfortably in the Little Italy neighborhood of Montreal, one would have to question the soundness of my mind for even considering pizza delivery when an abundance of quaint and tasty Italian food restaurants seed the neighborhood.
For a homelike traditional Italian atmosphere, you can try out Tre Marie, an out of the way restaurant on Clark Street near the corner of Mozart Street; for many years this traditional Italian restaurant has been the chosen spot for first dates and meetings with old friends or simply for dining alone on a hefty plate of pasta with a delightful glass of red wine and the local Italian newspaper, Il Cittandino Canadese, for companionship.
And if you like to bring your own wine, a fast food Italian restaurant with good taste and good prices to consider is the casual dining atmosphere offered by Trattoria Piatto Pieno on St. Zotique at the corner of De Gaspe. Not only is the pizza pie delicious, the scallops are too die for. Nonetheless, diner beware, Yelp reviews for this restaurant are chaotic.
There is always that special evening, perhaps, it's game night, or the end of a long hectic day when the children are crying for pizza, when it crosses my mind to spread the checkered table cloth on the kitchen table and order in.
Touted as being the most popular pizza delivery option, Pizza Hut offers a combination of Americana chicken wings for game night and the scrumptiousness of a pizza pie in one delivery, in addition, it might just be the most affordable option if you use Pizzahut coupons.
If you live downtown Montreal, you may have heard of Chef On Call, the gourmet fast food delivery service known for its home-style cooking and late-night hours. My downtown friends have praised it, so I was thrilled to have a chance to try it and write this review. As a Concordia grad myself, it's exciting to see a Concordia-grown, business succeed and grow. They're now expanding their delivery services and will open a third location on Cote-Des-Neiges later this month.
Chef On Call is not your ordinary fast food: they offer an exciting range of sandwiches, burgers, pastas, salads, milkshakes, desserts and more. Rather than generic, mass-produced options, Chef On Call takes pride in its homemade recipes, made with love and delivered with a smile.
For my lunch I enjoyed the Chic spinach salad, the Cubano Wrap, and a mix of french fries, sweet potato fries, and onion rings accompanied by various dipping sauces - a very impressive spread.
I started with the Chic, a mix of baby spinach, goat cheese, honey toasted walnuts and dried sweet cranberries, topped with the Chef's balsamic vinaigrette. It was fresh, crisp, and packed with flavours that hit the palette in all the right places. The texture of the soft cheese and the hard walnuts complemented each other and added substance. On its own, this salad would make the perfect light lunch.
The Cubano wrap, filled with sauteed mushrooms, avocado, melted Monterey Jack cheese and the Chef's roasted garlic mayonnaise was hard to put down! I've had my fair share of vegetarian wraps and this was definitely in my top five. The combination of ingredients was on point and every bite was warm, gooey, and delicious.
Still not convinced? Wait until you try the French fries. The generous portion of thick and crispy fries will satisfy any late night craving. You can have a lot of fun with the various dipping sauces (my favourite - honey dijon!) and the alternatives (sweet potato or onion rings, anyone?).
Not only does Chef On Call make great food, they're also responsible. Customers can appreciate the recyclable and biodegradable packaging, as well as the use of enviro-friendly electric scooters that get your order to your door. So if you're a student, professional, or something in between and need a quick and delicious meal, the Chef is On Call and you can place an order at their new, easy-to-use website: http://www.chefoncalldelivery.com
When sitting at a table in an impressively designed and well lit and restaurant, it is easy to take for granted all those working behind the scenes to make our dining experience possible. While we are necessitated to interact with wait staff, we tend to forget about all the busy, toiling hands that slice, chop, bake and fry up the mouth-watering foods we love; we forget that it takes the diligent efforts of an actual flesh-and-blood person - usually working under immense pressure - to prepare the foods that miraculously arrive at our table only moments after they are ordered. It is, after all, only natural to spend more time contemplating that second slice of brownie cake than it is to wonder about what kind of day the person who cooked your dinner is having. What most people don't realize, however, is that behind the restaurant industry's thinly veiled façade of professional courtesy is a seedy underworld of substance abuse and despair.