Gabriel Drapeau has left his role as executive chef of high-profile Little Burgundy restaurant Joe Beef and is now eager to take on the world of at-home meal delivery subscriptions.
“I think I was just ready for my graduation from the Joe Beef program, but I’m beyond grateful for the time I’ve spent there,” he says.
Drapeau has been with the Joe Beef group since 2013, having held stints at several of its establishments (Le Vin Papillon, McKiernan, Liverpool House) and, in the last couple of years, helming the Joe Beef kitchen.
Montreal-based WeCook, which supplies home-delivered ready-to-eat meals, has tapped the chef as its new head of Culinary Operations, a role that Drapeau says will involve working on research and development and supporting the brand’s national expansion. The company says it’s poised to deliver more than 4 million meals in Quebec and Ontario this year but hopes to make inroads out west with a new production facility in Calgary.
As Drapeau notes, Joe Beef is a prominent feeder for chefs moving on to open their own restaurants in the city (see: Little Italy wine bar Vin Mon Lapin opened by former Joe Beef group sommelier Vanya Filipovic and chef Marc-Olivier Frappier, and Verdun restaurant Beba run by former Liverpool House chef de cuisine Ari Schor, for example). But at 32 years old, Drapeau says he’s ready to break away from an industry that can often be physically and mentally taxing. “Restaurants are wild. It’s always on the go. People are drinking, people are partying, people are celebrating. I’ve realized that I’m at the point in life where I’d rather be on the other side — going to bed early, eating properly,” Drapeau says.
The new gig allows him to do just that, plus spend more time with his loved ones. But as a self-proclaimed nutrition nerd and former athlete, Drapeau says it’s WeCook’s focus on a balanced, nutrient-rich diet that largely reeled him in — a marked departure for a chef who’d been steering a kitchen known to put out some of the most indulgent food in town.
“The idea of cooking for so many people every single week is beyond romantic for me, because I’ll suddenly be a part of so many people’s lives,” he says.
“I think that with my background in cooking and gastronomy, and WeCook’s expertise in meal prepping, there’s going to be some magic happening,” Drapeau says. “Right now, we are feeling like the Chicago Bulls in ’96. We’re going, we’re going, and the only way to go is up.” Spoken like a true athlete.
Opened in 2005, Joe Beef is the group’s first and most famous restaurant sporting the same name. It is a favourite for its unapologetically hearty, fuss-free approach to French market cuisine. But the restaurant has also drawn attention for issues with its culture, including a sexual misconduct incident, its owners’ struggles with alcoholism, and the abusive behaviour detailed in a 2019 New Yorker piece.
Asked about his experience with the restaurant group, Drapeau said the past pandemic-ridden 20 months have been difficult for the industry at large, but called the company a “wonderful organization” and said his split was amicable.
So where does that leave Joe Beef? Drapeau says Jean-Philippe Miron (formerly at Liverpool House and the Barroco group) will be taking the reins in the kitchen.