Montreal Plaza chef and co-owner Charles-Antoine Crête is entangled in controversy after having appeared in a video uploaded to the restaurant’s Instagram page on Tuesday, in which he satirizes ongoing discussions surrounding cultural and culinary appropriation in the restaurant industry.
In the three-minute video, Crête adopts the persona of an imaginary character named Jojo Pow Pow — modelled on Cilindric the German of the French-language animated film The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, based on the Asterix comic books, which remain widely popular in Québec — and circulates throughout the restaurant conducting a mock inspection.
In one scene, he tells a female employee donning a cow costume, “You can’t drink milk if you aren’t a cow. Pow pow.” In another, he tells a young man clutching a pack of noodles, “You can’t cook Vietnamese vermicelli if you aren’t Vietnamese.” When the employee responds that he is half-Vietnamese, Crête says, “That doesn't count; you aren't allowed to be half-Vietnamese.”
The video was taken down from social media the following day, but not before Silo 57 was able to capture the rebuke of commenters, including Québécois entertainers Ingrid St-Pierre, Rosalie Bonenfant, Sarah-Maude Beauchesne, and Laurence Lafond-Beaulne of electric pop duo Milk & Bone, who commented, “[...] Ciao. Bye. I’m never returning to your establishments. This video disgusts me deeply. [puke emoji].”
Actress, activist and creator of @lagrossequifaitdesvideos Naïla Tremblay reposted the video to her Instagram page, where it can still be viewed. Replying to a request for comment via Instagram, Tremblay said, “I find it sad that someone is once again ridiculing something that has hurt so many people just to make a joke. Sure, it could be that one day someone calls out something as cultural appropriation when it actually isn’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes these things can be really oppressive to certain groups. Is it really worth joking about?”
After taking down the video, the Saint-Hubert Street restaurant posted a statement to Instagram reading, “We were simply making a commentary on current events in a way that was playful and funny. We apologize for the misunderstanding.” That statement has since been withdrawn as well, but was included in Silo 57’s original reporting.
At the start of the video, Crête refers to “the story of Antonin Mousseau who isn’t allowed to cook Korean food.” Accusations of cultural appropriation were levied against chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard of Le Petit Mousso earlier this summer when he promoted his Korean-inspired pop-up, Séoul Train, on Instagram. In a Facebook post defending his decision to proceed with the event (and announcing plans to revive it later this year), Mousseau-Rivard writes, “After a lot of reading, advice, reflection and extremely interesting exchanges with people and chefs of all backgrounds, I’ve concluded that it is still acceptable and encouraged to explore other cultures through gastronomy.”
Yesterday, the same day that Montreal Plaza reopened its dining room after running exclusively on takeout and delivery since the start of the pandemic, Crête went on Puisqu’il faut se lever with Philip Arcand on 98.5 FM to reiterate that he believes his intentions had been misunderstood. “If I was even just one percent of what people are accusing me of, my own parents wouldn’t even talk to me anymore,” he said.
Eater reached out to Montreal Plaza for comment, but hasn’t heard back.