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.
She made a sea buckthorn margarita with glasswort salt, a piña colada with chamomile (pineappleweed, in English) instead of pineapple, a sugar beet “rum” and an oat amazake. Mealworms (perfectly edible!) are currently fermenting in her home to become a garum of insects. No one pushes the cocktail as far as Claudia Doyon, winner of the Laurier “Mixologist of the Year 2022”. The manager of La Chaufferie bar in Granby, brand manager of the distillery of the same name and co-founder of Amer Kebek, tells us about her stubbornness in demonstrating that the “earth to glass” approach is entirely possible in Quebec.
“Working in cocktail bars and behind restaurant bars, I noticed that we mainly used products from elsewhere and that there were a lot of losses. During that time, the cuisine was really focused on the terroir, local and wild products, the reduction of losses. I wondered why it wasn’t done in a cocktail. I wanted to see how we could transform all these products that the kitchen used to make them liquid and put them in our glasses. »
“The restaurant La Tanière, which was then located in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures [fermé en 2014, il a ressuscité dans le Vieux-Québec en 2019], was one of the first spark plugs. We had ordered the 21-course menu with the pairings. It was amazing. I couldn’t get over eating all those things that came from us, but that I didn’t know. »
In France, in Italy, in Spain, they cherish their land and their products so much. We can do it here too, right?
“It was when I arrived at the restaurant Le Coureur des bois, in Beloeil, that I had my first real carte blanche to create cocktails with a boreal approach. Shortly before, I had started to take an interest in picking. I read a lot of books, then I did some groundwork afterwards. At some point, you just have to get started. I wanted to understand each product, each taste. We’re not taught that in school, but it’s so valuable. My 5 year old daughter has hardly ever eaten vanilla. With us, it’s sweet clover! »
“For me, picking represents contact with the land and the rediscovery of certain ancestral methods of preservation, such as caning, lactofermentation, dehydration, maceration, etc. Working with local products and with the seasons requires being organised. The easy way is to go buy lemons at the supermarket, but I prefer to work harder and be really satisfied with the final product. During the summer, we rush like crazy, but that’s where there is a blow to be given. To help, we can do group chores. It takes motivated people. »
At home, it’s a big laboratory. Also at the distillery. I make fruit and nut kefirs. I experimented with Huitlacoche, this “parasite” of corn that Mexicans consider to be caviar! I made an elderberry “champagne”. Then I had pickled elderberries. I even made elderflower fritters for garnish. I’m really exploring!
“For a cocktail to be balanced, it is above all necessary to juggle with three elements: sugar, acidity and bitterness. In Quebec, we have maple syrup, honey, fruit for sugar. Acids may be less obvious, but I use verjuice, sea buckthorn, lots of other berries that have acidity, good quality apple cider vinegar. Then, we have plenty of roots to make bitterness. I ended up creating my range of bitters for the bar community and for cocktail lovers. »
“Today, I take care of communications for a distillery and I have my company, Amer Kebek. I’m taking herbalism classes. Everything I’ve done in life has brought me there: catering, my bachelor’s degree in communications, picking, my fascination with spirits, my interest in history. After my maternity leave, I had a job that was not like me. I worked 14 hours a day with a baby in my arms. I wondered if I should take a job at Desjardins! But I’m really glad I persevered. That allowed me to get to the Coureur des bois, and everything else came crashing down. »
“I’m lucky to have super open bosses. bryan [Furlong] and vincent [Van Horn], from La Chaufferie, are artists themselves, so they understand my state of mind. They know that the main thing is to deliver the goods, and leave me plenty of freedom. Me, I’m a ping-pong ball and I always have lots of drawers open at the same time. I need a team to get things going and to frame me. »
“A good manager understands that you always gain more by trusting someone. If someone tells me: “You punch in, you punch out”, you can be sure that I will “puncher in and punch out”. But if I am told: “We trust you, do what you do best”, then I will give myself. The work that I have, it was created to measure. If, when I was younger, I had known that at 33, I would be doing the communications for a distillery, I would help a distiller develop recipes, I would have my bitters company, I would take photos, I would manage social media, I would have freaked out! To have the chance to do what I love in life AND to receive an award for it is just amazing! »