After working across Canada for the past 10 years, including restaurants in Toronto and Vancouver with organic agriculture in the Yukon, Dominique Dufour developed a lot of strong relationships and communities with female chefs. Arriving back in Montreal late last year to cook at Pier 66, however, Dufour “didn’t experience the same thing, and I thought there was something missing.”
This is part of the inspiration behind Les Femmes Chefs de Montréal, an organization founded by Dufour and Catherine Roux (Passeport en Fût), which aims to showcase female chefs in Montreal’s kitchen industry. Over the next six months until December, the six scheduled chefs will be sequentially and collaboratively putting together menus which aim the spotlight on their work, in addition to using locally-sourced ingredients, micro-distilleries, sommeliers and mixologists.
This month’s event will take place at the 35-seater Pier 66 and will feature the work of Dufour and Stéphanie Audet of LOV; for $65 plus taxes and tips, diners will be treated to three courses with pairings. There will be two services, one starting at 5 p.m. and followed by a later service at 8 p.m. for patrons looking to hang around a drink after their meals.
As for the following months, “we’ll release the names as the events happen to give the organization some momentum,” Dufour explains. “There’s some big names that are likely known by locals, and there are some people who haven’t been in the media but deserve to be a part of this. It’s an eclectic mix of young emerging chefs and more established chefs.”
Dufour says that another inspiration for an event such as this comes from a need for representation. “One of the reasons I wanted to target female chefs is that, right now in kitchens, women represent around 45% of kitchen personnel. If you look in the media, however, we’re only represented at around 12.8%, so there’s a big disparity there.” While women still receive due attention more competitively-driven shows like Les Chefs!, “there is room for something else... When you think of big chefs in Montreal you think of Normand Laprise, Martin Picard or Chuck Hughes… so I think we need to claim a spot.”
In lieu of the fanfare that competition creates, Dufour says that “the whole idea of the events is that we collaborate. One of my realizations about the Montreal food scene is that it can be very competitive; there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think at the same time we need to portray chefs that are able to thrive in environments other than competition.” Suffice to say, this isn’t a politically-driven Iron Chef affair, as all participating chefs have their as to the ingredients they’ll be using and devoid of value judgements beyond enjoyment, plain and simple. “There’s never going to be a rating, no one’s going to ask who made the best dinner, there’s never going to be a comparison or ownership of the food.”
Want to reserve a spot? Check out the event page for Les Femmes Chefs de Montréal’s inaugural session on July 23rd here. Stay up to date on events in later months through their official Facebook page here.