Mathieu Jacri: Starred chef from Brussels at La Chronique
As part of the Montréal en Lumière Festival, Air France is once again presenting its Finest Tables and is announcing that Mathieu Jacri will be at La Chronique restaurant for three delicious evenings on February 27, 28, and 29: The Stars Shine at La Chronique. For the 21st edition of the festival, thanks to Air France, 50 participating restaurateurs will be working around the theme Journey into a World of Flavours to offer exclusive and colourful menus to festival-goers.
Michelin-starred chef Mathieu Jacri is arriving in Montreal to cook with Olivier de Montigny, the Quebecois chef of La Chronique restaurant. Today, our profile is of a humble chef who highlights Belgian terroir in his creations that focus on the essentials.
Mathieu Jacri is a chef from Brussels who was born and raised in a small town in Belgium called Forest. While the young Mathieu was destined for a career in chemistry, his vocation as a chef only became apparent much later. “I used to do extra jobs from time to time in various restaurants as a teenager to make some money, but it never crossed my mind at the time that I would work in the restaurant industry later on.” So when he graduated from high school, he decided to study chemistry, not really knowing what he wanted to do later. However, after a year, he realized that this was not the path he wanted to follow and he returned to cooking.
His next step was an apprenticeship where he spent four days in the restaurant and one day at school to learn the techniques of classic bistronomic cooking. But it was not until he began his internship at Le Bon Bon restaurant, the first gourmet restaurant in his career, that his passion and devotion for the art of gastronomy really took off. “I was lucky enough to meet Christophe Hardiquest, chef at Le Bon Bon in Brussels, who offered me an internship in his restaurant to solidify my apprenticeship; he was the one who introduced me to haute gastronomy and shared his boundless passion for the craft.”
He then moved on to the restaurant Le Chalet de la Forêt where he was sous-chef for six years under the direction of Pascal Devalkeneer. There he deepened his rigour, mastery of techniques, and his knowledge of product varieties; “I rediscovered all kinds of ancient vegetables and learned how to cook them, but especially all the methods for fish that require a lot of know-how.” During these six years, Mathieu learned to manage a team and passed on his knowledge while continuing to learn.
When the team at Chalet de la Forêt went in search of its third star, Mathieu Jacri decided to leave, broaden his horizons, and take on new challenges. He left for Paris, the gastronomic capital of France, where he perfected his techniques alongside Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée. After a year, he decided to return to his native land to take over the reins of La Villa Emily where he received his first star in 2017.
Over the years, he has developed a special affinity for local foods and his cuisine is strongly influenced by local products. He cites Alain Ducasse and Emmanuel Renault as notable encounters who have each, in their own way, left delicious imprints on chef Mathieu Jacri’s creations. He speaks of Alain Ducasse’s visit to his restaurant, La Villa Emily, as a sacred moment; “I learned so much working with him! He’s been my mentor for as long as I can remember and I owe him a lot for the success of my restaurant in Brussels.”
What is his favourite thing about being a chef? The familiarity and human contact that spreads throughout the space at La Villa Emily, especially with the restaurant’s beautiful open kitchen. “I’m the first contact with the customer… after the valet,” he laughs.
When asked what he’s expecting on his first visit to Quebec soil, he humorously replies, “not poutine… I’ve been strongly advised against it, but I still think I should taste it so I can have my own opinion.”
In March 2020, the fine French institution on Laurier Avenue West launched by chef Marc De Canck, a living legend of gastronomy, will celebrate its 25th anniversary. The Brussels chef’s visit during Montréal en Lumière is the perfect opportunity to kick off the festivities and celebrate this impressive quarter century anniversary.
In the same vein as La Chronique’s cuisine, Mathieu Jacri has announced a tasty and refined menu, focusing on the essential; this time with products from here and not from Belgium!
You will have the opportunity to taste the special menu on February 27, 28, and 29 at La Chronique restaurant. The 5-course menu is offered at $125 before wine; a unique experience not to be missed!
Written by Inès Duguen