Plating up Canada for royalty and leaders
3Q: Louis Charest, Executive Chef, Governor General of Canada
1. For an Indian reader, how would you broadly define the varied cuisine map of Canada?
Canada’s culinary map is one of diversity, from coast to coast. We have fish and shellfish: halibut and sable fish from the Pacific, cold water shrimp from our Arctic waters, and shellfish such as PEI mussels from the Atlantic. We even fish our Great Lakes for fresh water fish such as pickerel and pike. On land, our northern climate is home to wild game such as bison, elk, wild boar, even caribou. Our seasons are short so cooking with such produce brings variety in our menus. Spring brings wild leek also known as ramps, morels and rhubarb among others.
With summer we have vegetables and berries, fresh herbs and lettuces. In the fall, we harvest our root vegetables, squash, apples and pears. This season also brings on comfort food with slowly braised dishes such as braised beans through to spring time. In winter, we rely on cellared vegetables and preserves.
2. The French influence on Canadian food is expected —which other cuisines add to make it a melting pot?
The French influenced our cuisine from the start, but it fused quickly with that of the British and Irish, early on. As more cultures arrived, they brought along their cuisines and shared it with the rest of the Canadians. Today, especially in larger cities, Canadian cuisine is influenced by many nationalities. My teachers were French, my chef and mentor was German, the saucier was Russian, some of my teammates were of Indian descent, the butcher at the National Arts Center where I apprenticed was Japanese. Italian, Indian, German, Japanese, French, Irish, Scottish, British and many more are part of today’s flavours.
3. What can Mumbai look forward to from someone who has created menus for the world’s top leaders, apart from the Canadian Governor General?
I’ve had the pleasure of cooking for Her Majesty the Queen of England and the Duke of Edinburgh, Their Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and recently, I had the honour of cooking for Their Royal Highnesses Will and Kate. We highlighted youth by preparing a BBQ where we served up beignets of Salt Spring Island goat cheese with rhubarb; Niagara almond and cold-pressed colza oil glaze with fennel scented BC sea salt; Newfoundland and Labrador spruce tip smoked oysters with sorrel leaf and cracked boréal green alder; Yukon smoked gold eye and PEI clothbound cheddar parfait with northern horseradish, white fish caviar and sturgeon caviar. During my trip to Mumbai, I will be treating my guests the same way I treat all my guests — as if they were royalty.