While we can't currently eat at the restaurants featured in our Meet the Chef series, we can still be inspired to try cooking like these kitchen creatives at home.
Jean-Christophe Poirier, chef and owner of St. Lawrence, spent his formative years spent in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec and gained early experience in renowned Montréal restaurants. After honing his skills under celebrated chef Normand Laprise at Toqué!, J-C voyaged west in 2004 and worked with Rob Feenie at Vancouver’s Lumière before forging an eight-year partnership with local hospitality group Kitchen Table Restaurants and opening such acclaimed restaurants as Pizzeria Farina, Ask For Luigi and Di Beppe.
Q. What motivates and inspires you as a chef?
A. In my profession, one’s always a student. I like the fact that there isn’t enough time in a lifetime to learn everything about my craft. I’ll never truly master it and that’s the beauty of it. I’m motivated by the learning aspect of it — the research, the philosophy behind it, the fact that you are always trying to find a better way.
Q. How would you describe the type of food you like to cook?
A. I like food that is simple, generous and honest, like your grandmother’s cooking. The essential thing is the good taste of the food and the warm, friendly atmosphere of the home or the restaurant. Smart presentation doesn’t matter to me — food must be delicious, prepared by an individual or a team that truly cares.
Q. What might diners not know about you?
A. I’m presently working on my own cookbook that will be released in fall 2022, which, in reality, is not that far away. You’ll be able to know more about me and my French-Québécois cooking by reading the stories and trying my recipes.
Q. What’s your favourite local product and how do you use it?
A. I like ramps a lot. It’s kind of a wild leek or onion with a strong garlicky flavour. It screams ‘spring’ to me, and all the excitement that comes with the products of that season. The season is quite short for ramps, so we usually preserve a fair amount so we can use it as long as possible. I particularly enjoy making a bright green ramp butter that goes with our escargots in puff pastry dish.
Q. If there’s one important piece of advice you might have for home cooks, what would that be?
A. All the technique in the world won’t matter if your ingredients aren’t top-notch. They may be a little more expensive, but they make an exponential difference to the quality of your cooking. Most importantly, cook with emotion, logic and love, allow yourself to have fun with the process instead of being scared and I guarantee that you’ll be just fine.
Gratin Savoyard Québécois
(Potato gratin with cheese curds & gravy)
1 ¼ cup (300 mL) cream, 35% MF
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
2 tsp (8 g) kosher salt
Black pepper, ground
1.6 lbs (720 g) Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, skin on and sliced 1/16” thick
3 tbsp (40 g) unsalted butter, diced small
1 ½ cup (200 g) cheese curds
1 cup (250 mL) of poutine sauce (I use St-Hubert poutine sauce in a can)
Preheat your oven at 350°F (175°C). Put the cream, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic in a small sauce pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat immediately and let cool. During that time, slice the potatoes with a mandoline. They must be 1/16 inch (2 mm) thick. Place the potatoes in the individual gratin dish, the portion must be of 1/3 lb (180g) of sliced potatoes (about 1 medium potato per gratin). Strain the infused cream through a tamis and pour 1/3 cup (80 ml) on top of the potatoes in every gratin dish. Spread the small pieces of butter on top, about 1 1/2 teaspoon (10g) per dish. Place the gratin dish on a baking tray and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. During that time, set your oven to broil and heat up the poutine sauce in a sauce pot. Place 1/8 lb (50 g) of cheese curd on top of each gratin and broil it for about 2 minutes. Pour 1/4 cup (60 mL) of poutine gravy on top of each dish and serve the remainder in a gravy boat. More is definitely more in this case!
Makes 4 servings.