Reinterpreting the terroir through gastronomy

This text is part of the special Plaisirs booklet

We keep hearing about local purchasing, locavorism and local agriculture. Everyone has their own appreciation for them, even if the majority of us understand that they underlie a closer relationship between our artisans, their products and our plates. Three followers of locavorism – a farmer, a chef and a gourmet blogger – will combine their know-how for two evenings, September 24 and 25, at the Jardins St-Laurent farm in Lavaltrie. We approached them to know their vision on the subject and the way in which they interpret it… or rather, reinterpret it!

They are young, passionate. And local, they eat it! However, the farmer Michel Valois, at the head of the Jardins St-Laurent, the chef Rémi Lemieux, of the restaurant Norest, and the blogger Tommy Dion, alias Le Cuisinomane, did not grow up in an agricultural environment, nor did they. ‘epicurean.

“I was even picky as a child, and I did not know that buying strawberries in the middle of winter in a grocery store, it did not make sense,” admits Tommy, whose realization dates back from a trip. in Europe. Eight years ago, he then went from thinking to action by creating Le Cuisinomane, with the objective of promoting the Quebec terroir.

For their part, Michel and Rémi took an interest in the local area by putting their hands in the dough and the earth. The first first stormed the backyard of his parents’ bungalow to grow vegetables, before finding himself by happy coincidence running a laboratory farm for bio-intensive agriculture. “I wanted to make sense of my life and get involved in filling the gaps in industrial agriculture,” he explains.

As for Rémi, he worked in kitchens at the age of 14 and immediately fell in love with his future profession, which he learned on the job with big names like Martin Picard and Massimo Bottura.

What does local mean?

For Tommy Dion, the local is above all a question of seasonality. Eat asparagus in the spring, squash in the fall. And even if this battle is far from won with consumers accustomed to finding just about anything 365 days a year, he is delighted to see that Quebecers are more and more curious and informed. “No one is perfect, including me,” he says. But I now see my food as Christmas music. I take full advantage of it during the season, so I have no regrets the rest of the year. “

Chef Rémi Lemieux, for his part, is very attached to local agriculture, and even more to the artisans who produce it. “For me, they are rock stars! he says. And this feeling, it comes to me from Massimo [Bottura], who took us to visit them and had boundless admiration for them. Today, I therefore want to promote them, celebrate them, be as close as possible to their products. “

And what definition of local does a farmer like Michel Valois have, whose products, from Wagyu beef to crapaudine beets, are far from the idea that we can have of traditional Quebec terroir? “Personally, I believe more in the potential of the land than in heirloom varieties or breeds. After all, there were no tomatoes in Quebec 400 years ago, we took them over afterwards. So I think in a market that has gone from regional to global, it is better to go for the best fruits, vegetables and plants that thrive here, without chemical inputs and without disturbing the soil. “

Six-handed meal

This original way of conceiving the terroir, or even of reinventing it, is entirely in line with the Gastronomic Series designed by Tom Dion and Rémi Lemieux. On the program: ten top-flight dinners in the space of three years on farmland, two dates per place, thirty guests per evening. “The idea is to offer a multisensory experience to immerse yourself in the place and the riches it conceals,” says Tommy. His teammate Rémi adds: “Creating a tasting menu in a restaurant that is not one is a great challenge. “

But the real stars of these evenings, says the chef, are the products, the place and the craftsman with whom he and Tom work closely. This will be the case on September 24 and 25 at the Jardins St-Laurent, with a daring 11-course menu. Places are still available. After those in September, the next dinners should take place in May 2022. A different way to discover and taste local products.

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