With dining rooms still shut across Montreal, the city’s chefs have been forced to keep improvising, doing takeout instead of fine dining and changing up menus to offer comfort food and grocery staples. With a curfew now in place that restricts restaurant orders to delivery (no takeout) after 7:30 p.m., chefs are resorting to Zoom to connect with customers from a distance.
“We miss doing service and having contact with the public,” says Francis Blais, one of the chef’s behind Mile End outfit Menu Extra. The Top Chef Canada winner and his partner, 2020 Les Chefs! winner Camilo Lapointe Nascimento, came up with the idea of a Saturday afternoon “Chefs en Direct” Zoom cooking class to remedy that. “We want to spend time together as a community,” Blais tells Eater. “Our course is for learning and interacting, from the moment everyone says ‘Oui Chef!’ at the beginning of class to when we eat together at the end.”
Menu Extra’s cooking class will focus on using local products for classic dishes and demystifying kitchen techniques that might seem daunting to the home cook. Their first session on January 16 features French classic coq au vin and rice pilaf, and takes home cooks through the experience of deboning poultry. Participants have the option of signing up for the full meal deal — all the ingredients required, delivered to the doorstep of anyone on the Island of Montreal — or the online class only.
Their next class on February 6 will feature coulibiac, a traditional pastry shell filled with salmon, vegetables, rice and egg — just the kind of dish you might need to see someone make before attempting it on your own. “People might be scared,” Blais says, “but it’s a great dish to impress people with, and it’s easy to make.”
Award-winning Old Montreal restaurant Pastel has three-course meals with local ingredients planned for their hands-on “cousu-main” (hand-crafted) cooking classes, also starting Saturday, January 16. The first iteration starts with Chef Yoann van den Berg teaching how to make beet carpaccio (with three kinds of beets, accompanied by a cranberry chutney and caramelized pecans), roulade de volaille (chicken breast stuffed with ricotta and truffles), and a panna cotta with bee pollen, buckwheat, and lemon cream for dessert.
Ingredient boxes for the class can be picked up at the Old Montreal restaurant, with the option to include wines recommended by Pastel sommelier Jonathan Brisebois, who will be talking about his pairing choices during the session.
Van Den Berg says he’s sure home cooks will be able to master the menu under his guidance, and in the following weeks will tackle sweetbreads, foie gras, magret de canard, and even the humble egg. “We’re doing this with no pretension, to enjoy together,” he says. And with a cap of 20 participating screens, he hopes there will be lots of interaction. “We want everyone ... to share their creations online so we can see the beautiful food we’ve created together.”
Menu Extra and Pastel are new additions to the online cooking space, but the trend has gained steam with other chefs in the city over the course of the pandemic. There are the instructional videos that come with Chef Danny Smiles’ Mise en Place meal kits, group classes for everything from pad thai to mai tai by Cacao Barry ambassador Chef Jonathan Garnier’s La Guilde Culinaire, and pizza classes via Instagram live from Old Montreal’s Bevo Pizzeria.
“As much as the situation is negative, food still brings people together. I know I draw energy from people bringing me into their kitchen for these classes,” says Bevo’s chef Giovanni Vella. He hosts an Instagram live pizza class every Thursday; diners can either order Bevo’s Margherita kit for delivery or make their own dough based on his instructions. “We’re not expecting everyone to have a perfectly round pizza,” Vella says laughing. “We have people doing this with their kids; it’s meant to be fun.”
- Chefs en direct ! : Menu Extra lance des cours de cuisine en ligne [Tastet]
- Menu Extra Concept Expands Once More, This Time Into a Pithivier Takeout and Delivery Operation [EMTL]
- Chef Danny Smiles’ Meal Kit Company Taps Arthurs, Beba, and Vin Mon Lapin for Online Groceries [EMTL]
- Inside Pastel, Montreal’s Most Complex, Obsessively Detailed New Restaurant [EMTL]