Christine Plante: A unifying force in Quebec gastronomy
Christine Plante is the founder of the Les Lauriers de la Gastronomie Québécoise gala. She is passionate about good food and contributes to the national and international promotion of Quebec’s culinary culture. Portrait of a dynamic and passionate communicator!
A natural for gastronomy
Since she was young, Christine had a penchant for gastronomy. “I remember when I was 12 years old, I invited all my friends to my house and I planned the menu down to the last detail! We went all over the city to get my favourite fries at Frites Alors!, souvlaki, and meringues with whipped cream! (laughs) When it came to food, I was the pickiest of my family; I told my mother that I didn’t eat sandwiches for lunch… in kindergarten! Today, that side of me is still a picky eater!”
As she grew up, Christine discovered a passion for communications. After several years of theater, she headed to the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) to study in the domain until 2004, before working there for several years. “When I started, I had a lot of experience in media, advertising and content creation; it was really good and I learned a lot. But, as the years went by, I felt the need to get more involved from a social standpoint.”
A journey of initiation
In 2012, Christine needed a change. She made her last pitch for the large company she worked for and left, two days later, for a six-month trip to India and Asia with her boyfriend — a trip that would end up being a real pivotal point in her life. “To plan this trip, I was greatly inspired by Anthony Bourdain. When people say that he changed trajectories, it was truly the case for me! He guided me on this journey and I started writing about food. I published a blog throughout the adventure, it was called “Gougounes et pepto-bismol!” (laughs). We obviously chose destinations known for their exceptional culinary scene. It was an absolutely incredible journey of initiation, and I came back much freer.”
Following the success of her blog, when she returned from her trip in 2013, Christine decided to continue on this path and created a webzine called Street Cuisine, combining her two passions: communications and good food. “Street cuisine was emerging in Montreal and I wanted to be involved in its growth. For a summer, every two weeks, I published reports on the stories of Montreal’s street trucks, from Pied de Cochon to Monsieur Crémeux. We had a super gourmet summer!”
The popularity and originality of her webzine would lead her to publish these reports in book form in 2014, thanks to Édito, the Quebec branch of the Gallimard publishing house. This book release, which coincided with the birth of her son, catapulted her into the Montreal food scene. In fact, in the years that followed, she sat on gourmet committees, was involved in the licensing of street food trucks, and wrote articles for various media including Nightlife and Caribou. She also perfected her knowledge through Food Studies, which she explored as part of a certificate in socio-cultural practices of gastronomy at UQAM. Then, in 2016, she came up with an idea that would perfectly combine her passions for food and for communications: that of organizing the very first gala of Quebecois gastronomy.
The adventure of the Lauriers gala
The Lauriers project was born of a very clear position in Christine’s mind: that gastronomy is part of culture. It may seem trivial, but considering gastronomy in the same way as music, cinema or humour was not so obvious a few years ago. “It’s only been 10 years since gastronomy was included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage.” This was the genesis of a small spark that has grown into a big one today!
Over the past three years, Christine has brought together many people, organizations, and companies around this collective project. Starting with Michelle Labarre, her accomplice and co-founder, whom she convinced to get on board in the early months of the initiative and who actively participated in the genesis of the project. Together with Michelle, Christine launched the organization of this first major celebration of Quebecois gastronomy. “For us, the primary relevance of Les Lauriers was to create a gathering event for this large family, as is already the case with the ADISQ Gala or the Oscars!”
During the organization of the very first edition of Les Lauriers, in 2018, Christine encountered many challenges, including creating a fair, ethical, and transparent selection system. “By surveying people before the first edition, we realized the importance of having a strong and well-developed recognition system. For example, we didn’t want the winners to be chosen simply from votes on Facebook, or that all the members of the jury were also the big winners. We needed to develop a strong ethos that would be the backbone of the gala.”
This was the first thing that was developed to establish Les Lauriers. First, by creating an ethics committee responsible for drafting the rules of the gala, bringing together competent and recognized individuals, ranging from Gaelle Cerf (Grumman’78) who was heavily involved in drafting the rules and developing the project, to Marie-Claude Lortie (La Presse), Liza Frulla (ITHQ), Marc-André Jetté (chef/owner of the restaurant Hoogan et Beaufort and Marc-André Le Traiteur) to Geneviève Vézina Montplaisir (Caribou). The selection of the finalists of the annual winners is based on the votes of a jury that withdraws from the race to ensure impartiality, and on the weighted votes of a team made up of more than 3,500 members from the gastronomic community. The winners are chosen to represent the opinions of the entire industry across the province. In order to interest the public in Quebec’s gastronomic talents, everyone has the opportunity to express their opinion in the Laurier du Public category, which elects the Quebecois personality of the year.
A real recognition for the milieu
“Beyond celebrating, there is a real relevance to all these people from the gastronomic community of Quebec. Whether they are sommeliers, chefs, or producers, the goal is to bring everyone together, in the spirit of farm to table, because it is important to celebrate each other! People in the industry work long hours, without huge salaries, and are often driven by passion. It’s all the more important to have a big night where we all take a break and let our hair down!”
On the eve of its second anniversary, the Lauriers gala has already confirmed its relevance in recognizing Quebec gastronomy. In fact, the spin-offs have been significant for many of the winners, including Colombe St-Pierre, who was named Chef of the Year in 2018. “We’ve seen just how much of an impact such industry recognition has on gourmet tourism. After Les Lauriers, Colombe went on Tout le monde en parle, then spent a summer completely booked at her restaurant. A few months later, she even became the owner! It’s incredible how it has created an influx of visitors to the Rimouski area.”
This is, in fact, one of the most beautiful aspects of the gala: that of putting forward the work of many people who work behind the scenes, by rewarding small producers and restaurateurs, whether they are in the region or in the city.
On April 29, Les Lauriers de la Gastronomie Québécoise will once again celebrate the wealth of talent to be found in our superb province. This will be a tribute to an industry that constantly enriches our cultural identity and that we believe deserves celebrating!
Thank you Christine for your work, your determination, and your involvement.
Have a great gala!
Written by Jean-Philippe Tastet
Photography by Alison Slattery