Normand Laprise is a local treasure. In addition to mentoring a host of exceptional local chefs, he celebrates the richness of our terroir through his culinary creations, as he has done since the earliest days — first as the owner of Citrus restaurant and later at Toqué! with his partner, Christine Lamarche.
Since 2006, Toqué! has borne the prestigious title of Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux. In 2009, the Ordre national du Québec knighted him for his gastronomical achievements and for his emphasis on products hailing from small producers throughout the province. In 2014, Toqué! joined the association Les Grandes tables du monde. The following year, Normand Laprise was appointed as a member of the Order of Canada. A glowing list of achievements!
- How did you view cuisine in the early days of your career?
After graduating from the École hôtelière de Charlesbourg in 1981, I had the opportunity to work alongside Jacques Le Pluart at Quebec City’s Le Marie-Clarisse restaurant. He exclusively used fresh ingredients, which greatly inspired me; however, most of these products hailed from Europe, which was common then. Later, I joined Jean-Pierre Billoux at Hotel de la Cloche in Dijon, France. It was then that I realized that what made French cuisine so exceptional was the authenticity, traceability and freshness of the ingredients, as well as the forging of close relationships with small producers. When I returned to Quebec in 1989, I decided to base my cuisine on the same values that were instilled in me growing up on a farm in Kamouraska in the Lower Saint-Lawrence. Highlighting local, seasonal produce from small producers has been part of my philosophy for cuisine for almost 30 years.
- What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years?
Technology in cooking and in the agri-food industry has experienced a dramatic evolution over the last 25 years, which in turn has impacted our cuisine. For example, in the early 1980s, fresh local strawberries were available only one month per year, whereas now you can get them almost 8 months out of the year.
- How do you view cuisine today — in Quebec, in Canada, and globally?
Quebec’s cuisine has evolved tremendously in recent years. More and more young, creative chefs are showing up in our restaurants and incorporating lots of local and seasonal products into their recipes. Canada is also beginning to gain international recognition. The vast territories and abundance of products in Quebec and Canada represent enormous culinary potential for both. At the same time, it also means fostering that potential by supporting small producers. We can achieve this by purchasing from them in greater volume, but also by placing greater emphasis on those producers who offer the highest quality products.
- What inspires you for the future of cuisine?
The future of cuisine lies in the products, and the future of those products lies in the small producers. They have always been my source of inspiration and we must continue to support them to ensure the future of cuisine in Quebec.
- How was your collaboration with Alt+ Hotel at DIX30 formed?
I have known the Germain family since the beginning of my career in Quebec City. I even had the opportunity to cook for Mr. Victor Germain, the father of the family, when I was working at Marie-Clarisse. I have the utmost respect for their family business and the unparalleled service they extend to their clientele. We were extremely honoured to open a Brasserie T! (the brasserie’s second location, in addition to the one located in Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles) adjacent to their new Alt + Hotel in Brossard’s Quartier DIX30. We are proud of the affiliation between the Brasserie T! brand and the Groupe Germain Hotels brand.
By Catherine Lefebvre