Cookbook | Arnaud Marchand: democratizing the boreal terroir

The catering and gourmet agriculture worlds are full of stories, reflections and solutions. Once a month, we give the floor to those who make up the richness and diversity of Quebec’s food trades.

Posted at 11:00 a.m.

Iris Gagnon Paradise

Iris Gagnon Paradise
The Press

(Quebec) At the helm of Chez Boulay — boreal bistro since it opened on 1er May 2012, chef Arnaud Marchand applies himself to showcasing our boreal terroir. Ambassador for Aliments du Québec on the menu, the native Frenchman has given himself the mission of democratizing the products of our territory while rethinking the restaurant model in a healthy way.

First serve

“I come from the center of France, a small village of 400 inhabitants called Chalmazel. I grew up in an agricultural as well as a working environment. We had our garden, our chickens, our rabbits. My father hunted, he made his own charcuterie. We made our terrines, our beans, we picked, we hulled! I was raised in this love of food where there was also this concern for economy. »

“I liked to cook with my mother, but until I was 14-15, I had no vision of going into the kitchen. Then, I went to follow a four-year training course, but I did internships that I didn’t really like. I didn’t have a hook until my very last internship. It was a Logis de France hotel, a two-star hotel where everything was homemade. It was the whiplash! My first sacred fire, the first thrill in the kitchen. »

I then stayed to work during the summer. I was in the pantry. One day, I will remember it all my life, the chef made me come warm with him for lunch. The room was full, we train, we train, I knew exactly what I had to do, I loved it. That’s what it takes in the kitchen: someone who gives us that desire. This chef changed the course of my life, in the end.

Arnaud Marchand, chef and co-owner of Chez Boulay — boreal bistro

“Then I worked for a winter at Les Airelles, in Courchevel, in the Alps, a luxurious hotel with very high standards where very traditional Bocuse-style cuisine was served. All the mastery behind a background, a juice… I learned a lot. I worked with the best products in the world, while learning the basics. I ended up doing seven seasons there and ended up as sous-chef with 30 cooks under me.


Originally from France, Arnaud Marchand was trained in excellent restaurants in his country.

“In this type of establishment, the relationship was not necessarily with the local product, but with fine products, exceptional products. We worked with smoked salmon from Russia, the most popular and expensive in the world, we received products from the Mediterranean directly from fishermen who traveled five hours to bring them to us, the prawns were still moving!

“At Airelles, I met my wife Sophie, a Quebecer. I applied for a working holiday permit and I came to Quebec, I worked at L’Initiale with Yvan Lebrun. Then we got married, and we went back to France for three years. I had some great offers, great work opportunities in Michelin-starred places. I had two options: write an exceptional resume with a life dedicated to work, work, work, or come and settle in Quebec, where I saw more latitude to continue in the profession while having a family life. . »

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Chez Boulay recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

“I arrived at Château Bonne Entente with Marie-Chantal Lepage. I stayed for a year, then just then the first season of the show The Chiefs ! was beginning. At first, I didn’t want to get into this, but eventually I let myself be convinced, and I was selected to join the brigade. It was a great human adventure, I loved the experience, the danger.

I met Jean-Luc Boulay at that time and some time later he asked me to join him in opening the bistro. I refused three times! But he didn’t let go. I had never wanted to become a boss, but I ended up saying to myself: why not? And that’s how we launched Chez Boulay, 10 years ago, with this desire to thank this province which welcomed us both.

Arnaud Marchand, chef and co-owner of Chez Boulay — boreal bistro

“Initially, I had never tasted a boreal spice! I was starting from zero. Le Boulay, at the time, was a veritable laboratory for continuous research and development: the boreal spices of Fabien Girard, a precursor with whom we began to collaborate, local vinegars and verjuice to work on the acidity other than with citrus fruits, lemon, how to replace olive oil with sunflower, camelina, cranberry seed oil… We tried a lot of things.

“There have been exceptional discoveries, such as grilled canola oil from the Coop du Cap, in the Gaspé, links that we have forged like the one with Léandre [Saindon], who had just started growing sea buckthorn in Saint-Ferréol, at a time when this little fruit was not yet known. We discovered products such as milkweed, cattail heart, daisy buds with Gourmet Sauvage and Ariane [Paré-Le Gal] who have popularized this aspect a lot.

“All this in a kitchen that resembles me, with my stocks, my sauces, all the techniques learned during my years in France. The balance of the dishes, the flavors, the textures, that’s what interests me. We are a bistro in Old Quebec, we had to adapt to our clientele. »


Arnaud Marchand in his restaurant located at 1110, rue Saint-Jean, in Quebec

For me, a restaurant is a place of education. So what we had to find was how to popularize boreal, get people to take an interest in what grows here, but integrated into something that it recognizes, for example a veal blanquette with bayberry. As I like to say: a reassuring cuisine that gives you a boreal slap.

Arnaud Marchand, chef and co-owner of Chez Boulay — boreal bistro

“To be boreal is to use products that grow in Canada. That does not mean that all the time, I will have products from Quebec. We started with 60% local products, then we evolved to 70%, 80%, 90%. We see 100% local restaurants in Quebec, and so much the better. We’re not there yet, there are some challenges with the volume we’re doing; but thanks to this volume, we are an important support for local producers. »

Third serve


Rethinking the way of looking at catering is also a priority for the chef.

“I have a very special bond with Jean-Luc. In 10 years, we have never hung on. We like to tease and challenge each other. From the start, we had a success that has not been denied. At one point, I thought it was too much and we reduced the restaurant’s capacity by 20% to 30%. To regain a taste for the pleasure of cooking, to spend time with customers, to slow down services. Going at all costs towards growth, I am far from that. Me, I want to manage a decrease, and I find that it can be very brilliant, that it is very good.

“Over time, the evening chef, Guillaume Caron, who started as a clerk here 10 years ago, the daytime chef, Olivier Langlois, who has been here for five years, and Patrice Auclair, catering director, have become partners. For me, it was essential in the evolution of a restaurant that the people who signed up, who gave of themselves, had that reward.

“We opened Les Botanistes just before the pandemic, then Comptoir Boréal, a laboratory where people can taste our pastries. The pandemic has brought us a lot of things. We started from zero, we redid all the foundations. It was an opportunity to ask ourselves: what do we want for the rest of things?


Democratizing the local and the boreal: the heart of Chez Boulay’s mission.

“We found ways to put the producers forward, we structured things better for our employees, with 40-hour schedules and 4 days a week for everyone. I work a lot on the revaluation of the profession of cook, restaurateur. It’s very important and it goes through us first, to give a quality of work, in a healthy environment.

“We created a platform, For the family, with great content, stories of producers, customers, employees, things we want to share. We have seen, with the pandemic, an extraordinary solidarity of people who wanted to encourage producers. We try to enhance these links between customers, employees and producers.

“With this war taking place, we see that food autonomy, and of countries in general, takes on a new meaning. Do we have to eat so many products that come from other countries, with maritime transport costing a fortune? There is also the issue of accessibility to maritime products from Quebec, an issue that is essential. To break this system installed and encrusted there and which no longer needs to be. It’s all about sharing the richness of the terroir of a region that we are losing. »

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