Gault&Millau, the French culinary guide that bills itself as "one of the most trusted brand names in Europe," thanks to a "witty, modern style [that makes] established guides look passé," will release its inaugural Montreal restaurant guide, in both English and French, on May 30. The half-century-old company opened an office in the city last summer, and, with chef Nicolas Garbay (late of the Radisson Blu Biarritz, Radisson Blu Ajaccio, and Montreal's Café Holt at Holt Renfrew) as directeur des affaires culinaires, has been hard at work on its first foray in Canada. While Michelin has yet to set foot in the country, the august Red Guide's less stuffy competitor is bullish.
The Montreal guide will feature 150 restaurants, rated, as per Gault&Millau's house style, on a scale of 1 to 20. In 2017 the guide will expand to include the rest of Quebec, with future guides slated for Toronto, and the rest of Canada. Gault&Millau's Montreal spokesperson, Emilie Paulhiac, spoke today about the guide's plans for the city.
Why did Gault&Millau decide to open a Montreal office, and publish a guide here?
We've been expanding our international profile since the 1980s. We're in twelve countries right now, apart from France, and Canada, starting with Montreal and Quebec, made sense for several reasons. Montreal is known for its diversity and quality of cuisine, and of course the city and province have strong historical and cultural bonds with France.
When you enter a new market, how do you proceed? Where do you start?
It helps to have a good interlocutor, and that's been Nicolas Garbay's role. He knows the terrain and milieu gastronomique in Montreal very well. Gault&Millau is more than a guide, and this is what we want to stress. Our objective is to spotlight chefs, to discover new talents, and to help them become known. We're not here to criticize. If we don't like something, we don't talk about it.
Is that where Gault&Millau differs from Michelin?
That's one difference between Gault&Millau and Michelin, but there are others. The values are different. Gault&Millau places a lot of importance on transparency, and anonymity. Reviewers pay for their meals in full. We're also not in the business of exporting our expertise, or showing people how things should be. When we come to a new city we try to take care to respect local traditions and cultures. For example, here in Montreal there are bring-your-own-wine restaurants, which don't exist in Paris. But the objective with every Gault&Millau guide is coherence and consistency; we want to ensure, every time, that a 15/20 restaurant in one city is the same as in another.
Did you employ local reviewers? And can you divulge some of the Montreal guide's standout restaurants?
We did use local reviewers from Quebec, for the most part. And no, you'll have to wait for the guide to be released. But I will say that Montreal has many essential, and special restaurants.
What made Gault&Millau confident that the timing was right for a Montreal restaurant guide?
Well for sure we did some market research. We know there are other guides here, but after repeated discussions we found that there was a problem with neutrality. We're not here to create conflicts, but to illuminate talent, and neutrality is central to that. The guide's a tool, but Gault&Millau is a lot more than just a restaurant guide. Our goal is to be in touch with chefs on a daily basis, and to really be involved in Montreal's gastronomic community.