> F-Bomb Foodie Plants Roots in Montreal

F-Bomb Foodie Plants Roots in Montreal

by Ruby Akhtar

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Walking around Mile End is like checking historic points off of a neighborhood map.  For decades, Montrealers have coveted their Mile End favorites like the St. Viateur bagel bakery, open 24/7 and a neighborhood staple since 1957.  The old Rialto on Parc Avenue, though having gone through several ownership changes, has survived with all its charm and structural integrity since the 1920s.  And then there's Rotisserie Laurier BBQ.  A neighborhood landmark since 1936, this Mile End restaurant is on its way to becoming something bigger and better.  After 75 years, Rotisserie Laurier BBQ and Gordon Ramsay are about to deal some risky business.        


Recently news hit that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay had become part owner of Rotisserie Laurier BBQ along with current owners, Danny Lavy, Danielle Lord, and Marie-Christine Couture.  Does the likes of a straight shooting and crude celeb chef fit into the quaint yet increasingly trendy area of Mile-End?  One might argue that Rotisserie Laurier BBQ is not in need of saving, seeing as it has survived for over seven decades.  On the other hand, for a place that looks tired and out of place on Laurier Street, it most likely will benefit from a Ramsay-style reformation. 


On the brink of closing in just over a month's time, Rotisserie Laurier BBQ is about to undergo a Gordon Ramsay-style transformation.  Though the details of that transformation remain mysterious to date, rumor has it Ramsay plans to do up the barbecue joint by turning it into a two-story bistro/bar.  Also rumored, the historic rotisserie will now adorn the chef's name.  Aside from speculated reports, Ramsay is undoubtedly set to make changes to the old-fashioned barbecue and fries menu.  Ramsay would be smart to tweak the restaurant classics rather than overhaul. After all, it was the classics that caught and held the chef's attention following his visit to Montreal back in late 2010.  According to an interview in The Globe and Mail on November 12, 2010, Danielle Lord confirmed that it was Chef Ramsay's liking of the food that led him to begin this new venture: "When Gordon came to visit this place, he was charmed by the Laurier BBQ, by Laurier street, by Outremont, by Montreal, and decided that it would be a good challenge to be part of team...".  The modest restaurant specializes in barbecue chicken and ribs, and offers up its fare to a loyal clientele.  If for 75 years, Rotisserie BBQ Laurier has survived on loyalty, why do we need Gordon Ramsay to come in and change the lay of things?  Does trendy trump tradition?


In the case of Rotisserie Laurier BBQ, tradition should be prepared to roll with it. 


Gordon Ramsay's temperamental discipline is controversial and questionable, but behind the potty mouth is a chef who has taken a serious interest in bringing back to life the likes of tired and lacking restaurants.  In 2004, Gordon's Kitchen Nightmares debuted in England and showcased Ramsay intervening to rescue restaurants from the brink of failure in his native country.  His passion for quality food and service lends direction and motivation to staff and owners, resulting in reformed restaurants.  Ramsay could bring a surge of capital and a new found reputation to Rotisserie Laurier BBQ that is in need of a face lift.  While historic preservation, especially in a city like Montreal, is essential, sometimes what history needs is a helping hand. 


Montréalers have forgot the rotisserie spot on Laurier St..  Most likely you've heard about the place or been there once or twice years ago, but can hardly remember anything special about it.  The chicken is just chicken, there is nothing special from the fries to the soups; the food in general lacks distinctive flavors that create memorable food experiences.  There isn't anything remarkable about the rotisserie to garner attention outside of the small number of loyal customers and random walk-ins. 


That's where Gordon Ramsay comes in. 


Ramsay's culinary experience and direction will take the menu and the ambiance to another level.  I don't think a rotisserie in Montreal's small nook of Mile-End needs an overly refined and overpriced restaurant.  What locals need is a place where they can go to pinch barbeque cravings with food that tastes and looks invested in creating a comforting, lasting memory.  What locals need is to see their neighborhood barbecue joint bettered, not totally abandoned.  With a mission for quality and the driving determination of its new partner, Ramsay can help Rotisserie Laurier BBQ fit into, as well as help raise the number of worthwhile restaurants in the area.  The now dormant establishment isn't contributing anything meaningful to Mile-End other than being that old, nothing special, chicken place from way back when.  In addition to a culinary and financial contribution, Gordon Ramsay's name behind the rotisserie will shed more light on Montreal's food scene.   


Montreal is slowly being put on the map as a culinary city to look out for.  With the success of Garde Manger in the Old Port, owner and head chef Chuck Hughes hosts his Food Network hit show "Chuck's Day Off" right here in the city.  Montreal is finally becoming recognized for more than poutine, and allowing great chefs to stand out and represent us.  The addition of Gordon Ramsay to Rotisserie Laurier BBQ would also help attract the attention of foodie's and further benefit from exposure.  With all of our markets and food resources across the city, the province, and nationally, Montreal would have an advocate in someone who has an international following.  With the right direction, and with the good of the restaurant in mind, the chef could help establish the rotisserie as more than a neighborhood staple. 


No one wants to see a long ago established restaurant change so drastically that we as locals can't recognize it.  Keeping the integrity of the restaurant's history is important.  After reading food writer, Alexandra Forbes food blog containing an interview given by the Gazette, partner Danny Lavy reassures: "This is not going to be a Michelin-starred restaurant project, but a platform for something to roll out".  Though Mile-End is my old neighborhood, you don't have to be from the area to value a restaurant that has been in the same place, serving the same food to basically the same crowd for so many years.  I don't want anything of tradition to disappear, but I think the last thing any Montréaler wants is a flailing business in a borough that lends itself to our city's popularity. 


For a city that harbors so many rotisserie joints, it would nice to have Rotisserie Laurier BBQ on the map as the place to get excellent barbecue, a beer, and a memorable time.  Gordon Ramsay might be what revives Rotisserie BBQ Laurier.  The owners of the restaurant would not have signed Ramsay on if they didn't think the chef could restructure the eatery in a positive yet respectful direction.  Ramsay's challenge remains breathing new air to the neighborhood while still respecting the integrity of the restaurant's long history in the city.  For now, we'll just have to keep an open mind.


Besides, if the Brit messes up, we'll just run him out of Montreal with our own f-bombs.  The French ones.

Works Cited:

Leung, Wency. "But Gordon, will poutine be on the menu?"  Montreal Gazette. 12 Nov. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2011.

Forbes, Alexandra.  "Chef Gordon Ramsay takes over Rotisserie Laurier, in Montreal" The S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants. Alexandra Forbes, 13 Nov. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2011. 

Image source: Flickr

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