Inspiration from the land: Five questions for chef Marc-André Jetté
As you probably already know, Tastet is interested in everything related to the restaurant industry. We love to discover the best places to eat and drink well. Everyone appreciates good food served in a beautiful space. However, what gives us the most pleasure in pursuing our mission is meeting the people who make these experiences possible. Whether they are restaurateurs, chefs, famous personalities, or heroes who work behind the scenes, these beautiful encounters spark enthusiasm in us that we will always want to share with you. We invite you to discover one of Tastet’s favourite personalities with our little Q&A.
This week, we talked with Marc-André Jetté, the chef and co-owner of the restaurant Hoogan et Beaufort. For several years now, Marc-André has occupied an important place on the Quebec culinary scene. Both his restaurant and his catering service enjoy a solid reputation for the originality and quality of their dishes. The chef lets his imagination run wild in his creations that put forward the products of the earth. When talking to him about his origins, it doesn’t take long to understand where he gets his inspiration from.
And now, let’s learn a bit more about one of the best chefs in the province…
What three ingredients are always in your pantry?
Fresh garlic. I always use it. I also always have butter. And chili paste cooked over a wood fire, to which we add sugar, salt, and vinegar. We do that in the restaurant. I use it in many recipes, it adds a depth of flavour. It’s like the pepper we use in all our recipes, it gives more depth but never hides the taste of the other food. It’s my homemade tabasco in a way.
What is the food you like to work with the most?
Vegetables. I come from the countryside, my parents were granola. There was no processed food in the house, my parents didn’t want us to eat that. We were seen as weird by the neighbours. At school, everyone had Joe Louis in their lunch box. If you didn’t have it, you were not normal. We had a big garden and we grew all our own fruit and vegetables. Asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries… I always liked working with vegetables because not many restaurants did when I started 15 years ago. Big chunks of meat were often the norm. Yet the quality of vegetables is incredible in Quebec. Our mission at the restaurant is to always have several vegetable entrees to offer. At home, with my daughter and my wife, there are evenings when we will have a small piece of meat to share and plenty of vegetables to fill our plates. For me, it’s happiness.
Is there a dish that brings you back to your childhood?
One of my family’s signature dishes—which can be ordered online right now—is chicken pot pie. My mother makes it every fall, so we can eat it all winter long. My family still makes a hundred chicken pot pies every fall, which we divide into five to freeze and eat throughout the year. It reminds me of my fall dinners at home with the family when I was small. Every family has its own signature dish; at the Jetté’s, it’s chicken pot pie.
Is there one person in particular who has marked your career in the kitchen?
There are many people, it would be difficult to name just one. I started as a dishwasher when I was 15, and I started cooking when I was 18. I’ve been working in a restaurant for about 25 years. I have met many inspiring people through the years. I owe my taste for cooking and my attachment to the land and the farm to my family. Deep down, when I was younger, I knew that this profession would work. As I matured, it made sense to work in the kitchen with the products that I am passionate about, and with the people too. I really enjoy working in a team.
Several chefs have influenced me afterwards, that’s for sure. I would be hard-pressed to put my finger on one person. For a long time I worked with Patrice Demers (at Laloux), we worked together for about 10 years. I was marked by Patrice’s culinary culture, the energy he devoted to researching and wanting to see what was happening elsewhere on the planet. He brought me a lot of useful information every day that helped my development. We had a lot to learn from each other.
Who would you most like to cook for?
That’s a good question. I would go with a French chef named Michel Bras, who I was lucky enough to meet briefly when I was in France for my internships. I was introduced to him as a chef, and he took the time to shake my hand. For me, it was like meeting U2 or Celine. I’m not a groupie, but I have a lot of respect for chefs who paved the way before us. But I would rather have him cook for me, or just have a drink with him and talk. It’s always stressful to cook for a chef.
A food that you could eat every day?
It’s not complicated, I eat cheese every day. Good baker’s bread and cheese. It’s part of my diet. I could spend several years on a desert island eating nothing but this.
One food you would never eat?
I hate spicy food, which hides its flavours with spices (we’re talking about power, not flavours). I will never be able to. When a dish is spicy just to be spicy, it’s a no-go.
This or that
Sweet or savoury?
Wine or beer?
Dessert or cheese?
Bread or pasta?
I can’t answer that question for you. My two guilty pleasures!
Thanks to Marc-André Jetté for answering a few of our questions!
Written by Sophie Monkman
Photography by Hoogan & Beaufort