La Table Ronde: Behind the scenes of a historic dinner
Last Sunday, three dozen of the biggest names in Quebec gastronomy gathered at the Fairmont Château Frontenac in Quebec City for an unprecedented evening that marked the launch of the collective La Table Ronde.
We were among the few privileged witnesses to the event, along with thirty-five of the most influential personalities in the restaurant industry: Normand Laprise (Toqué!, Beaumont, Brasserie T!), Véronique Rivest (Soif), Fred Morin (Joe Beef, Vin Papillon, Liverpool House, McKiernan), Daniel Vézina (Laurie Raphaël), Colombe Saint-Pierre (Chez Saint-Pierre), Martin Picard (Au Pied de Cochon, Cabane au Pied de Cochon, Cabane d’à Côté), Dyan Solomon (Foxy, Olive & Gourmando, Un Po Di Piu)… We’ll spare you the complete list, but there was a celebrity chef left, right, and centre.
A historic moment? Only time will tell. However, it was without a doubt the first time that the industry’s top figures gathered in the same place with a common goal: the growth and influence of Quebec gastronomy.
It would have been difficult to choose a more appropriate location for the occasion than the majestic Champlain restaurant; which had a solemn air about it with its rich mouldings, its imposing crystal chandeliers, and its upholstered armchairs.
No pressure (!) for Franco-Quebecois chef Hugo Coudurier; freshly arrived at the helm of the restaurant’s kitchen last December after several years of criss-crossing the great tables of the four corners of the globe. Composing a menu for this particular guest list… well, we wouldn’t have liked to be in his shoes! We assure you, however, that the chef and his team pulled it off very well.
The glass half empty or half full?
The evening started with a welcome apéritif; the guests mingled and warmly greeted eachother, with a glass of champagne in hand. Clearly, everyone had decided to put rivalries aside and have a good time.
Once everyone was seated, the conversations took a more serious turn. After all, we were there to talk about the future of our gastronomy.
As we know, times have been tough for the hospitality industry since the pandemic began. Even our finest restaurants have not been spared. With sudden closures, health restrictions, labour shortages and soaring food prices, the restaurant industry is still struggling to recover from the crisis (at least for those who made it through) and many challenges still lie ahead.
Despite everything, one could feel a certain excitement in the air. Surely, the good food and wine helped, but one could feel the general mood warming up as the discussions went on.
The evening continued well into the early hours, but we won’t say more – journalistic modesty obliges.
Enthusiasm for La Table Ronde
Nevertheless, everyone was up at the crack of dawn Monday morning for the press conference and the start of the deliberations. For Normand Laprise, one of the instigators of the collective, it says a lot about the enthusiasm for the project.
“Everyone was up at 9:00 am. Usually, the chefs will come, but at the time they want. It shows how much they understand the importance of what we do,” he said.
The chef and co-owner of Toqué! has seen many people pass through his kitchens and restaurants, many of whom—Martin Picard, Charles-Antoine Crête, Hubert Marsolais, Dyan Solomon, Mélanie Blanchette—are part of the collective. One of the main issues of La Table Ronde, according to him, will be to restore the value of the profession, and to ensure the succession in the kitchens of tomorrow.
“I would find it a shame when I retire to see that what I built has disappeared. I think it’s important to leave a legacy,” he insists.
As president of the board of directors of the collective, Vanya Filipovic (Mon Lapin, Vins Dame-Jeanne) is pleased with the chefs’ enthusiasm: “I feel that in the collective, in the people who are here today, we feel this effervescence. Everyone has always had ideas. And now, to put that on paper, to make things happen, it inspires everyone,” she says.
“What touches me the most is listening to those who have been in the restaurant industry the longest say how much they’ve always dreamed of this. Now that it’s done, there’s a vision for the future that’s very positive, very inspiring,” she continues.
For the future of the restaurant industry
Over the next few weeks—in collaboration with La Table Ronde—we will be bringing you a major feature on the future of the restaurant industry. Through a series of interviews with chefs and restaurateurs of the collective, we will address the various issues that currently affect the industry; the development of the profession, the next generation, working conditions, and food sovereignty, among others.
Written by Sophie Monkman
Photography by Mikael Lebleu