Quebec’s province-wide culinary awards, Les Lauriers are over for the year, and Colombe St-Pierre, chef-owner of Chez-St-Pierre, in the small town of Bic (near Rimouski) took out the top prize of Chef of the Year. (For the full list of winners, see here.)
St Pierre — who has been dubbed “queen of the regions” for championing Québécois produce and putting her hometown on the map as a culinary destination — quite literally tumbled onto the stage, performing a somersault as she went to collect her award. As a bonus, since this was the inaugural Lauriers ceremony, St-Pierre takes the title of the first recipient of the award.
The prize was voted on in part by a 2,000 member brigade of culinary professionals, and in part by a five-person jury, consisting of Le Devoir critic Jean-Philippe Tastet, sommelier Élyse Lambert, Château Frontenac chef Stéphane Modat, former Eater Montreal editor Ian Harrison (now at Ricardo magazine), and CBC/Radio-Canada food columnist and host Allison Van Rassel.
“I’ve been fighting everyday for 15 years just to show how Quebec is wonderful, how we’ve got exceptional products,” St-Pierre told Eater after her win.
“I made the choice to do it close to the product, I’m a five-hour drive from Montreal, and the day I decided to [move to Bic], I was living in Montreal, everybody was like ‘don’t do that, you’re going to fail’.”
Evidently, St-Pierre hasn’t failed in the slightest — she’s a veritable success story, but she says that operating a restaurant is still a tough business, given everything from taxes to credit card and food costs.
“We still have fun, that’s the secret.”
The night’s other big winner was Montreal restaurant Le Mousso, open since 2015 under Antonin Mousseau-Rivard, and known for elaborate tasting menus repurposing Québécois produce in artful new ways. The chef-owner brought his entire restaurant staff onstage to collect the award. And while Mousseau-Rivard was a finalist for Chef of the Year, he seemed relieved to have earned the restaurant prize, and not the more individual accolade for chefs.
“It’s the best prize you can ever win,” he told Eater.
“It’s not me myself and I, it’s my whole team. They feel incorporated in that win.”
(And no — Mousseau-Rivard didn’t have advance notice about the win; he brought his staff to the ceremony, win or lose.)
Beyond Le Mousso, numerous other Montreal restaurants and culinary figures fared well in the prizes (perhaps little surprise, given the city’s dominant spot in the province’s food scene). Patrice Demers of Patrice Pâtissier won Pastry Chef of the Year; Alexander Van Huynh of Montréal Plaza won Server of the Year, and Vin Papillon chef de cuisine Stéphanie Cardinal claimed the “Revelation” award for young talent.
Disclosure: former Eater Montreal editor Ian Harrison and occasional Eater contributor Allison Van Rassel were members of the five-person jury that voted on Les Lauriers’ winners. The jurors’ identities were not revealed publicly (including to Eater) until the award ceremony.