Alessandro Porcelli is the founder and director of Cook it Raw, a yearly culinary confab that draws some of the most avant-garde chefs in the world. The Friuli native and current Copenhagen resident spoke today from Toronto, after an exploratory weekend in Montreal.
You and Arlene Stein (special projects coordinator at Cook It Raw) were in Montreal this past weekend. How was it?
I really enjoy Montreal. It's an island within Canada. It's completely different. When I was young I lived in Australia and took a trip to Canada. This was in 1987, 1988. I worked as a chef in Vancouver. After a while me and my girlfriend bought an old Pontiac and drove across the country to Nova Scotia.
When we reached Toronto we went south through New England and went back up through Maine. I didn't go to Montreal at the time. The first time was last year. I loved it. It's very European. It has a sense of history. It's very special.
We ate at Joe Beef last April and stayed until five in the morning. Such generosity from both David [McMillan] and Fred [Morin]. The food was incredibly delicious. You feel like it's been there forever. It has such a strong personality. This weekend we went to Le Vin Papillon. What an amazing spot.
Also Normand Laprise. Such a gentleman. All the work he does outside of the restaurant, with sustainability and so on. He's very inspiring. His passion - to be so involved and dedicated to issues outside of Toqué!. This is what chefs should be - ambassadors to create awareness around issues related to food.
I also went to Maison Publique for brunch for the second time. Such good vibes in that place. I hope that I can spend more time with Derek Dammann.
The people from [art gallery] Parisian Laundry took us to Satay Brothers. This is how I love to eat. Such fresh ingredients, just a few tables, organic wines. It's incredible that there are so many different restaurants in Montreal - I have a huge list. I feel when I go there that it's really unique. People in Montreal really seem to enjoy good food and socializing.
From the looks of Twitter, it seems like you have designs on a future Montreal event, perhaps at the Parisian Laundry. Can you share some details?
We are planning, it's still early stages, to do an event where we possibly combine food and art to help raise - and hopefully help answer - some important food-related questions. Arlene first made contact with Tourisme Montréal to generate some ideas. We were talking to David McMillan last year and looking at spaces and he introduced us to the art gallery. We met Jeanie [Riddle, director of Parisian Laundry] and Megan [Bradley, director of exhibitions] and started to think of ideas around bringing together a strong group of chefs - local and international - and artists and extend it over a few weeks with exhibitions slash workshops slash food events.
We had a long conversation with David when we were last in Montreal. This time we spoke with Derek and Normand. We're figuring out how we can bring together a powerful event that tackles some issues affecting our food systems. So the question of how to incorporate this in a specific event is what we're looking at now.
Do you have a target date in mind?
Sometime in mid-September and October. We're planning to come back in March to develop the concept. At the end of the day we see ourselves as facilitators where we create a platform for discussion.