I have always taken my lead from my ingredients. In life as in cooking. When I grew up on the family farm in Kamouraska, on the south bank of the St Lawrence River, I was surrounded by fresh produce, crates of it. My father was a greengrocer. Later, when I graduated from Charlesbourg Hotel School, he took me by the hand again and inspired me further. Freshness has always been all important to me. I like to base my cuisine on absolutely seasonal, top-quality ingredients and treat them with utmost respect. This was something that Jacques Le Pluart at the Marie-Clarisse, where I trained, demonstrated every working day. Since 1993 and the opening of Toqué! in Montréal, the ingredients themselves give that added extra. This is gourmet cuisine where the role of creativeness and modern techniques is subordinate to outstanding raw materials, locally sourced where possible, and this can be seen in our tasting menu which changes on a daily basis. This philosophy has born its fruits. In 2006, Relais & Châteaux named me Grand Chef. This again was the result of ingredients and also, on this occasion, our efforts.
We’ve been working with the farm, Gaspor, since it was founded. We help them develop the best possible product, raising piglets with tender, tasty flesh and a well-balanced flavor while maintaining profitability. The ones we use weigh between 22 and 26 kilos — they’ve been on the menu for 11 years now!
At my restaurant, we serve it in just about every way possible, in every season, from snout to tail! For example, in the springtime I might make headcheese croquettes with white asparagus, a nice gribiche and a few trout lily sprouts. It all combines well — it’s a matter of balancing the fat, the juice, which is relatively light, and the side vegetables.