My Host Chef is Marc Lepine.
I got to sit down and interview him.
It was nerve-racking. And oh so cool.
Because he is super cool. And really intelligent. And really thoughtful. No lies.
I’ve never interviewed anyone before. Especially not for my blog. I honestly wasn’t sure how I wanted to go about it. I knew that Rachelle (of rachelle eats food) had interviewed Marc a few months ago when he was competing in Gold Medal Plates. I didn’t want Marc to feel like he was being bombarded with the same questions … I wanted to do something fresh and different.
Heck. I just wanted it to go well.
I thought about what I was going to ask him … and then … my nerves got the better of me.
But he is so nice. Like … seriously NICE.
He greeted me (and my partner in crime, Deb – she’s responsible for the pictures) with a smile, a cup of coffee and a laid back attitude. Perfect.
Deep breath. And … go.
I should warn you … my notes aren’t written verbatim… this entry is written off of the key words that I jotted down (apologies … I don’t pretend to be a journalist). In all honesty however, the thing that struck me the most, wasn’t Marc’s answers, so much as how thoughtful Marc was when answering my questions. He didn’t rush his responses. I liked it.
For example … when I asked him what one ingredient he would use – no matter the seasons (no restrictions whatsoever) – Marc told me … turnip. And it’s not so much that he picked the lowly turnip as his ingredient – it’s the manner in which he then talked about it. I could almost smell it being roasted and caramelized … I could practically taste the finished product … burning my fingers as I snatched a piece of roasted turnip, savouring the sweetness of the veg … Oh my.
But back to the interview at hand.
Since the purpose of my meeting Marc was to discuss the celebrity chef event – I figured I’d get down to business and chat about his co-Chef: Mathieu Cloutier from Montréal’s Kitchen Galerie (he also won the National title of Gold Medal Plates last year). Both work in small restaurants. Both are passionate about their food. And I couldn’t help wondering if they already knew one another. Nope. They’ve spoken enough in recent weeks to select their menu:
oyster / honey flavour roasted foie gras terrine / marrow bones & chardonnay vinaigrette / bacon foam
Mathieu selected the ingredients (the foie gras comes from a farm close to Mathieu’s home). Marc sensed that careful consideration had been taken in selecting the menu and liked all the ingredients proposed: he was more than happy to run with it. I got the sense that Marc is just happy to be involved – he’s secure enough in his abilities to be able to take whatever you give him and be true to himself – interpret the ingredients and his components to the dish the way he sees fit. This makes me very happy.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to dine at Atelier – you’ll understand this confidence.
Marc takes great care with each of his dishes – you get a set 12 courses when you dine at his restaurant (it’s a sweet deal if you ask me). Taking into consideration the season, customer feedback, experimenting with new ingredients, trying new things, trying new approaches to the food – Marc is able to guide you on a culinary adventure. It’s probably one of the coolest adventures you’ll ever go on.
Speaking to Marc, you can’t help but get excited at the thought of trying new cooking methods – liquid nitrogen – bring it on! Or how about his super-duper blender? It claims to do the work of 24 appliances in one … Marc thinks it’s probably more like a 10 -in- 1 blender … still – being able to puree your veg while you cook it – too cool. I might want one … think of how space efficient it is? Smart planning was taken into consideration when planning his kitchen: he was able to conserve space and reduce energy. He doesn’t shy away from discussing his interest in progressive cooking – no, he isn’t a mad scientist – he uses real food (tapioca starches and xanthan gum are natural products), researches new cooking methods, is inspired by other Chefs (the Fat Duck, Alinea) and seems to just love the industry. He simply wants to keep learning and experimenting. Sounds pretty brilliant to me – as a Chef, he gets to challenge himself, and as the client, we get the taste the rewards of all his efforts. Win-win.
After having so recently participated in Gold Medal Plates, I wondered why Marc wanted to put himself in another, labour-intesive, grueling situation? His response was quite simply – Why not? It’s a great opportunity to cook with great Chefs from all over Ottawa and Canada. And when Michael Blackie asks – you don’t refuse.
I can imagine that in the next few days Marc will be working out the fine details; speaking with Mathieu so that they can both finalize their individual components and gear themselves up for the big day: first the demo and then plating over 600 plates. I’m also sure that no matter what, Marc will lead his demo the same way he did this interview; thoughtful, informative, but most of all, inspired.
He is just too cool.
Marc … I am an even bigger fan – you drew me in with your food – but won me over with your chillaxed personality. Thank you.