Montreal is a city that boasts a rich multi-cultural culinary heritage, including many influences from every corner of the planet. The most important influence of all however – and one that has been present the longest – is undoubtedly French cuisine…
La belle province’s love affair with French cuisine is legendary. It has been rooted in tradition and technique for years. As early as three decades ago, mostly all restaurants in the city had French chefs at the helm serving classic French food. The arrival of Québécois chef Normand Laprise changed the game entirely. Laprise was instrumental in defining a cuisine that, although still rooted in French tradition, is very proper to Quebec. His insistence on working with Quebec producers and using their products to create a unique cuisine has been a role model for a whole generation of chefs.
Chefs in Montreal are not as anchored in the city’s culinary heritage as their colleagues are in the “old country”, perhaps for the simple fact that Montreal is a relatively young city with a relatively short culinary history. We happily embrace new ideas and count among our most-loved restaurants a few classic French ones that have been around for years, like Chez la mère Michel or L’Express, as well as more recent and inventive ones.
Today, many of Montreal’s most famous chefs are taking that classic French training and using it to create a new kind of cuisine, one that can only be defined as the new Montreal cuisine. Some of the most ubiquitous French dishes are being reinvented in ways that could never be conceived of in their place of birth. Boudin (blood sausage), for example, can be consumed in its most classic form in a few of the more conventional French establishments around town. But give boudin to brilliantly inventive award-winning Montreal chefs like Martin Juneau of Pastaga or the team at Les 400 Coups and they will transform it into an explosive croquette or a silky smooth, perfectly spiced tart, dishes that are as far removed from the original sausage-form as possible but that are rooted in it nonetheless.