Colombe St-Pierre was 19 when she became head chef at Pinot Noir, a wine bar she ran on rue Saint-Denis in Montreal friend of the time, Patrick Piuze, who today produces great wines in Chablis.
Posted at 5:00 am
Colombe was funny and effusive, extremely sympathetic. A breath of fresh air from Bic. I was a regular Pinot Noir in the late 90’s. And since Patrick was my friend’s cousin and roommate, I would sit at home around well-soaked dinners in the company of Colombe and even his father, a free spirit who is a lighthouse keeper. was in Bas-Saint-Laurent.
Colombe was self-taught, just starting out in the profession – while pursuing studies in science and then literature – but her talent in the kitchen was already noticeable. Jean-Paul Grappe, professor at the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ), has become the mentor of this young chef with exceptional potential.
In 2018, Colombe St-Pierre was voted “Chef of the Year” at the first-ever gala of the Lauriers de la gastronomie québécoise, which rewards excellence in culinary art. This year she is part of the jury for the award ceremony organized by Christian Bégin, whose finalists were announced on Monday.
The chef and co-owner of Chez St-Pierre, near Bic, is a recording artist, as are her two brothers (who work in music and theater) and her mother, who worked with the National Film Board of Canada before her graduation. raised children. She is still as friendly and exuberant as she was 30 years ago, judging by the colorful wigs she sometimes wears in her restaurant and the proverbs that accentuate her interventions at the end of the program. The chiefs! at Radio-Canada, where she is the new mentor for three weeks.
Also, like the proverbial animated character in the Mini-Wheats cereal commercials, Colombe St-Pierre has a frosty side and a nutritious side, literally and figuratively. Since she decided 20 years ago to return to her corner of the country and open a restaurant there with her lover and butler, Alexandre Vincenot, she has campaigned for greater food autonomy in his region.
“I’ve been talking about food self-sufficiency for 20 years,” she says. It’s not a fad for me. It’s a lifestyle! What we have done is put forward the model of craft production, short circuit, traceability, distribution networks for small producers. It’s not enough to know how to edit a product. You have to organize yourself to ensure that this product reaches your home, that you can make it profitable and transform it in such a way that you have no losses. †
If we do not collectively question the dominant industrial model, Colombe St-Pierre believes, we are heading straight for the abyss. “The whole world is talking about food self-sufficiency. It’s not like we’re a bunch of idiots! †
She traveled the world in her twenties, dragging her backpack across Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and South America for nearly a decade, working in various establishments and trying to quench an insatiable appetite for knowledge. This is what makes her the chef she is today and what motivates her all the more to defend Quebec’s gastronomy, which she believes is characterized by its zest for life, its hospitality and its creativity.
“With very little financial support, we have been able to promote Quebec gastronomy internationally. This is also where the pride of Quebec and the affirmation of our existence as a people will pass,” she said.
I love Quebec, I love Quebecers, I think we are creative, I think we live in an extraordinary area and the only thing I blame is that we don’t know!
Colombe St Pierre
When I hear her talk inexhaustibly about what she is passionate about, an expression comes to mind: food sovereignty. For example, making him regret all the interest sparked in his area by the possible opening of a Costco store in Rimouski.
“We have a problem of confirmation and we have a problem of knowledge of the global international situation, both in the environment and in the economy, Colombe St-Pierre believes. How come in Quebec we don’t know that there are no more fish in the oceans and that we are one of the last places in the world where there are still? †
The activist is angry with political leaders for having favored free trade, imports and exports for decades to the detriment of the consumption of local products.
For a Quebecer, it is easier and cheaper to eat a French cheese than a Quebec cheese! And it has become an achievement to have access to local sea products. What is our vision of tomorrow? Do we want to keep eating cheap French cheeses and tilapia full of toxic substances?
Colombe St Pierre
Unity is strength
In that spirit, two weeks ago, she took part in the first meeting of the collective La Table Ronde, which brings together some 35 of the most renowned chefs in Quebec, including her fellow judges from the chiefs! Normand Laprise and Jean-Luc Boulay. Together they aim to tackle the problems of access to local products, profitability and labor shortages exacerbated by the pandemic. Early signs are encouraging: The Round Table has managed to secure nearly $1 million in funding from the Legault government.
“We were extremely creative, in adversity. For me it was essential that we recognized him. I even emphasized to Mr Legault my enthusiasm and great joy that I have finally heard from a Prime Minister that it is dangerous to depend so much on others and that it could ultimately be one of the government’s priorities, towards greater food self-sufficiency. †
We suspect his enthusiasm is infectious, in an environment of independent catering, known for his camaraderie and competitive spirit. “It is a great initiative to pool our efforts,” says Colombe St-Pierre. We’ve been in clans long enough. I remember Antonin Mousseau [du Mousso] and Charles-Antoine Crete [du Montréal Plaza] who fought in the streets for L’Express. I came from my remote region and I couldn’t believe it! It’s great that we can unite. Regardless of the style of cooking we do, or the choices we have made, the fact remains that we are all working in the same common project that is the influence of gastronomy. †
This project is obviously close to his heart. This does not prevent him from seeing clearly the many pitfalls and obstacles that he must overcome. “It’s big, everything we’ll have to restore, organize, if we really want it to develop. Because actually that is a bit of a question: do we stagnate and see each other die one after the other or do we organize ourselves? †
For her and her restaurant, she says, it was one before midnight. Chez St-Pierre is only open four months a year, during the tourist season. This is a limited period of time to make a business profitable. Also due to the labor shortage and the restrictions imposed by sanitary measures, Colombe St-Pierre has not opened its dining room for two years.
“Before the pandemic, we were almost volunteering! Chefs have been charging only the value of what they serve for far too long. There is the value of the product, but also the value of our work. Ask any chef, not many charge for their work. †
A new formula
What she will be offering when Chez St-Pierre reopens in mid-May is a new, more user-friendly, single-use blind menu. Especially to combat the skyrocketing prices of food. “We propose a concept to stabilize prices because with what is happening right now, in the same format as before, it would cost $250-300 per person to eat at home! It’s beyond my psychological limit.”
The new formula also has the advantage of limiting food waste. “In the past, people chose what they wanted on the menu. And I got stuck with all unknown products! Customers ordered salmon and I had all the sea urchins left over that I didn’t sell. I have to buy enough from the fisherman to make it worth it for him to deliver them to me. †
The formula I propose solves many problems. If it’s not samphire time, you’ve got nothing on your plate! And I can stay in the company.
Colombe St Pierre
Barely three years after being awarded the Lauriers de la Gastronomie Québécoise’s most prestigious title, when Chez St-Pierre was just ranked 38thand on ‘s prestigious restaurant list Canada’s 100 bestthe “best chef in Quebec” seriously considered hanging up her apron.
“I understood that I couldn’t go on like this,” she admits. It was even dangerous for my mental and physical health. I decided to protect myself to stay in restoration. What I propose as a model will be more democratic and liveable for everyone. The pandemic has prompted us to tell ourselves that maybe it wasn’t ideal after all! †
However, there is no skimping on quality. As was the case with La Cantine côte Chez St-Pierre, since 2020 an annex of the restaurant, which will return in June. “We are able to do beautiful things, but in a relaxed way. It’s kind of what I embody in my restaurant. People ask me why I wear wigs. Just because I’m serious about cooking doesn’t mean I have to be straight! I think it is important that we maintain this friendliness and accessibility. When I perform internationally, that’s what we remember. †
The “bug in St-Pierre”, as she calls herself, now wants to be able to talk to her customers between courses. “Speaking of how to separate that, a whole fish, how to slice it, a rib of beef, how to flame a piece of meat. Include a small cooking class in the experience. †
Accessibility, in all its forms, is more important than ever. It is also for this reason that they are invited to participate in the chiefs!a program that certainly does useful work with its mission of popular education around Quebec gastronomy.
“It is the logical continuation of Daniel Pinard, Josée Di Stasio and Ricardo,” notes Colombe St-Pierre. We try to be accessible because we appeal to a large audience. It’s one of my priorities. We have made gastronomy too elitist. We must democratize gastronomy so that it does not die. †
Questionnaire without filter
Coffee and me: Addicted am stiff. Can not live without.
My ideal Sunday: In the morning brunch, bubbles and oysters by the water with my family and friends. The afternoon in motocross.
The people I would like to have at the table, dead or alive: Madonna, Mother Teresa, Che Guevara, Quentin Tarantino, Goran Bregovic, Bob Marley, Jean-Paul Grappe, René Lévesque, Céline Galipeau and many more…
A journey that makes me dream: Zimbabwe.
My favorite motto: I remember.
Who is Colombe St Pierre?
- Born on October 26, 1977 in Rimouski (Le Bic), in Bas-Saint-Laurent
- He spent his early childhood on Bicquette Island, near Bic Park.
- Started as a dishwasher at La Marivaude, aged 17, while studying science at CEGEP in Montreal, before working in the kitchen, notably at Caveau, Pinot Noir and Mange-Grenouille.
- Opened his own restaurant Chez St-Pierre in Bic in 2003, together with his beloved Alexandre Vincelot. They are parents of three daughters.
- In 2018, he received the “Chef of the Year” prize of the first edition of the Lauriers de la Gastronomie Québécoise and a medal from the National Assembly for his culinary successes and his defense of local products.