Two determined owners with their hearts on their sleeves
Meeting the owners of Canard Café
“Once you meet my husband, you’ll understand the soul of the cafe” mentioned Amélie, the co-owner of the establishment.
Throughout the interview, this was indeed confirmed! Pierre, chef by love of cooking and also co-owner, puts his entire heart and soul into this lovely third wave cafe that is an integral part of Hochelaga’s neighbourhood life.
Just recently, after a little over a year at the helm of the cafe and to better illustrate the personality and tastes of the owners, they renamed their cafe “Canard Café”, formerly known as “Hoche Café”.
A beginning marked by the pandemic
Pierre and Amélie became owners of the cafe in January 2020. Little did they know what was in store for them when they received the keys to the cafe. Eight weeks later, the pandemic hit Montreal hard and the restaurant industry went to sleep for an indefinite period of time. “It’s funny because we bought a cafe, but we almost never had customers sitting in it. Our experience was limited to take-out and delivery.”
Like many others, they’ve had to be creative and reinvent themselves, and to find a way to stay active during these unparalleled times. One way that they’ve done so is through offering their delicious cuisine with local flavours for take-out. “Because of the pandemic, we started making ready-to-eat meals every day to bring a little comfort to all those people who had just had their daily lives turned upside down. We like to work with comfort food that reminds us of our childhood through generous portions,” says Pierre. Word of mouth quickly spread and today some customers come from far and wide to fill up on good food, and they are still coming back every week.
Two complementary owners
Partners in life and in work, Pierre and Amélie come from two very different backgrounds and complement each other thanks to their respective strengths. Pierre is the creative spirit of the cafe; he is the one who creates and executes the different dishes on the menu with the help of his small team. Together with them, he forms the core of the cafe. If they make a mistake, he sees it as a learning experience. This approach allows the team’s creativity to flourish and leads to great discoveries. One day, after a dosing error, the employees found a way to create an energy ball made from brownies to avoid waste.
Amélie’s experience as a manager adds a more pragmatic side. She complements the duo perfectly by helping to keep the cafe on track and preparing the cafe’s expansion projects.
Together, they form a team capable of overcoming any challenge!
Duck: A world of its own
First, the owners chose to rename the establishment Canard Café, to symbolize their adventure. “A duck on the water is very beautiful, but underwater, it must pedal to stay afloat. It symbolizes our experience since acquiring the cafe, we had to row a lot with our dedicated team to keep our heads above water.”
Whether it’s to illustrate their story or in the kitchen, duck is omnipresent in their cafe.
Obviously, it has become the star item on the menu, and is prepared in many different ways: in a panini, a grilled-cheese, a salad meal, a confit duck fried egg, and more. However, Canard Café also offers several vegetarian and vegan dishes to suit the needs and cravings of all customers.
Pierre places great importance on the quality of the coffee that is served at his cafe. That’s why you’ll find a wide variety of roasters, two of which are based in Montreal. You will also find blends that reflect the image of the house, aptly named “Vieux Canard”, “Temps d’canard” and “Hochelag”.
The owners’ ultimate goal is to respect both nature and the products, which is why the cafe is also zero waste!
Giving back to the community
From the moment they acquired the cafe, the owners felt at home and made the space a great place to be, and where you just feel good. “I know all of my customers, I know all of their intolerances, allergies, caffeine rituals or their favourite dish on the menu,” says Pierre. Having a warm and human contact with their loyal clientele has always been very important to the owners.
With their big hearts, Amélie and Pierre have made it their mission to give back to their community, to those who don’t necessarily have the money to afford delicious small dishes prepared on site.
“Even before we took over the cafe, Pierre and I used to make sandwiches and treats for the homeless on occasions like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day, while others spend these holidays at home. These values are also found within the four walls of the establishment in order to help the community in the best way possible, sometimes by offering a smile through a special meal for a client or thanks to the various meals delivered to community organizations.
Le Canard Café: an address to discover in Hochelaga if you haven’t already!
Written by Marc-Antoine Ranger
Photography by Canard Café