We talk with great Quebec chef Daniel Vézina about celebrating Canadian cuisine, reducing food waste and his culinary inspirations
Founder and executive chef of Laurie Raphaël restaurants in Quebec City and Montreal, Daniel Vézina has also authored several cookbooks and hosted various radio and television shows. He has a passion for cooking and was a pioneer of the farm-to-table concept at an early age. The first dish he made as an apprentice chef was a strawberry shortcake with fruit from Île d’Orléans, just outside Quebec City.
Today Vézina gets his inspiration from any number of places. Even in his sleep.
“There’s one dish that I created in my dreams and that I made the very next morning at the restaurant,” he recalls. “I called it Salmon of My Dreams on the menu. It’s a simple and delicious recipe. It’s a carpaccio of zucchini slices fried with thyme and olive oil, on which I place a pavé of salmon poached in court bouillon, and I cover it all in a sparkling apple cider sabayon.”
Delectable, and probably not the sort of thing most of us would attempt at home.
“FOR ME, GREAT CUISINE STARTS WITH GOOD-QUALITY PRODUCTS.”
Vézina believes strongly in leaving a legacy. He wrote a book called La cuisine réfléchie, in which he shares recipes and practical and accessible tips on how to reduce food waste by cooking 100 per cent of the product, roots and all.
Those green bits at the top of carrots? Toss them into a soup. Green asparagus peels? Fry them up as delicious veggie chips.
In addition to helping the planet, he also wants to leave a legacy for his children. The restaurant he founded with his wife, Suzanne Gagnon, is named Laurie Raphaël after their two children. Raphaël is a partner and chef de cuisine at the Quebec City restaurant, while Laurie helps with customer service and marketing.
“I always thought it would be important to pass on my knowledge and my company to my children, in order to create a family tradition of gastronomy in Quebec as seen in other countries like France or Italy,” says Vézina.
Moreover, the chef celebrates Canadian cuisine by participating in culinary demonstrations around the world. He also dreams of opening a fine Quebec-inspired food spot in Paris.
“For me, great cuisine starts with good-quality products,” he says. “A carrot that has just been plucked from the garden or a fruit that has just been picked are accessible to almost anyone. Then you need to respect their flavours in order to enhance them.”
One of his favourite ingredients is the Gorria pepper, more commonly known as an Espelette pepper. They originated in France but are now also grown in Quebec.
“Every fall, I tie them by their stems and hang them in our kitchens in Montreal and Quebec City to dry them for a few months before grinding them to a fine power,” he describes. “It’s not too strong, and it adds a spicy twist to my salty dishes and even to some of my chocolate desserts.”
Now, that’s something to chew on!
By: Jim Byers