Ma Mère en Feu, the latest project from chef-about-town Beaver Sheppard, is bringing a whole new dimension and then some to the spot that once housed beloved Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie sandwich shop Mitch Deli.
Sheppard’s project is billed as a “casse-tête-croûte” (a mash-up of the French words for “puzzle” and “snack bar”) for its mixed bag of diner classics and experimental twists: Poutines, salads, burgers, and fried chicken are accompanied by sandwiches ranging from one with “Gangnam Style” pulled pork and another with chicken schnitzel and a sauce chasseur demi-glace to the “Yolanda Nona,” which puts a zucchini parmigiana between bread.
That’s just the tip of the spatula, however, as the kitchen will be shifting its menu items on a whim, serving off-menu items, and running one-off dining events — taking a page from the playbook of Sheppard’s past work at restaurants like Bethlehem XXX, where a different cuisine would be served every week. “It won’t be as crazy as Bethlehem, but it will be crazy,” says Sheppard, hinting at potentially creating a stream on Twitch of the kitchen.
Over time, Sheppard says he plans to wean off the sandwiches and adopt other offerings, like an omakase-style service. “Something where there’s 14 dishes and they’re all single bites; who knows where it could [go].”
For now, Ma Mère en Feu mixes things up with Taco Tuesdays, Wing Wednesdays and a brunch service on weekends that, true to form, keeps things weird. Sheppard is serving a dish called the “Two-Headed Dog” (named after the Roky Erickson song), a deep-fried mac and cheese topped with an egg, Hollandaise sauce, and a blueberry pancake with a creton foam. Another dish, his take on the Newfoundlander fish and brewis, pulls from his past, mixing hard tack (a dense cracker favoured for long sea voyages) with salt cod, onions and potatoes.
“Because it’s fun,” says Sheppard’s partner and co-chef Max Corsillo.
After years spent working for other chefs, Corsillo says Ma Mère en Feu represents a low-stakes return to the kitchen with a sense of play. “We’ve suffered so much abuse working in high-end restaurants all our lives for notoriously abusive chefs, and we want to have a safe space,” Corsillo says. “I thought I was done with cooking, I thought I’d retired, but this is just too much fun.”
Taking over the address that once housed Mitch Deli (now principally located up on Beaubien with a satellite kitchen at the craft brewery Messorem Bracitorium), the small diner shares its space with the café-record shop 180g. Between the diner’s picnic tables out front, tables inside, and tables in the record shop, the restaurant seats 24.
Ma Mère en Feu is the latest in a spate of projects from Sheppard in recent years: Just last week, the chef opened a second location of fried chicken joint Yakyu in Longueuil, following the first in St-Hubert in February 2021. Before that, he launched the poke bowls of OKOK. Both Sheppard and Corsillo have held stints at high-end Montreal dining institutions like Garde Manger, Au Pied de Cochon, Le Chien Fumant, and now-closed Globe.
As for the name of the new project? “I cook like my mother on fire,” Sheppard says.
Ma Mère en Feu is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursdays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 5868 Avenue De Lorimier.