Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall of your favourite restaurant’s kitchen so you can watch all the action that happens behind the scenes? Ok, maybe a fly on the wall in a restaurant kitchen is a bad and unsanitary example but you know what I mean… How about in the kitchen watching many great chefs and one superstar chef cook? I was privileged enough to be able to do that a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I had the opportunity to hang out in the kitchen and watch some great Montreal chefs get their groove on for La Vittoria, a gastronomic yearly charity event (this year, the proceeds went to La Fondation Marie-Vincent). Eight courses were served to 200 guests and I was there to watch all the magic happening in the back. The theme of this year’s La Vittoria was Paris – New York. There was a guest chef present from each of the theme cities: Christophe Michalak, the great pastry chef from Paris (who, unfortunately, couldn’t make it in the end) and Daniel Boulud, the aforementioned superstar chef from New York City, among many other cities.
The list of chefs and their courses was impressive:
Chef Thierry Rouilly (Restaurant La Porte) Iced cauliflower cream, cilantro jelly, half-smoked sardines, half-salted scallops, citrus chutney, cod fritter and potato crisp
Chef Éric Gonzalez (L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel) Crustacean bavarois, porcini caviar, Espelette pepper, aioli, lime
Chef Gilles Herzog (Restaurant F Bar) Halibut spread with a calamari marmelade, almond milk, parsley concentrate
Chefs Marc de Canck and Chef Olivier de Montigny (Restaurant La Chronique) Duck foie gras terrine with different textures of beets
Chef Daniel Boulud (Restaurant Daniel, New York) Cereal-crusted roasted venison loin, apples, Brussel sprouts, poivrade sauce
Yannick Achim (cheese maker) Selection of cheeses
Pastry chef Laurent Pagès (Pâtisserie Laurent Pagès, Blainville) L’été des indiens au Kalamansi (pre-dessert)
Pastry chef Christophe Michalak (Plaza Athénée, Paris) “Carrément chocolat” (loosely translated to: downright chocolate)
Chef chocolatier Christophe Morel – Chocolates and macarons
The thing that surprised me the most that night was how quiet the kitchen actually was. You would expect it to be completely chaotic, especially with all those chefs and their teams running around trying to put the finishing touches on their creations. However, everything was so well organized and done quietly and there was actually no running around at all, except for the walse of waiters walking in and out of the kitchen. Yes, of course there were the occasional jokes, a lot of ribbing between the chefs and the affirmative “oui chef!” being shouted out but other than that, it was pretty quiet. They all worked in unison, like a well-oiled machine. I was also surprised by how respectful all the chefs were towards each other. They all help each other out, following the exact instructions of whichever chef’s dish they’re plating. It is an eye-opening experience to see a chef like Daniel Boulud working the line just like everybody else.
I so very much enjoyed meeting and spending a few hours in the kitchen with all these chefs. They quickly went from eyeing me doubtfully at the beginning of the evening to putting me to work when they were short-handed and to offering me a taste of their dishes. I may be a bit star-struck still but casually hanging out with Daniel Boulud and sharing a plate of food is not something that happens everyday and I am very thankful that my life allows me these amazing perks…