Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interview with Gold Medal Plates Competing Chef Marc Lepine from Atelier

Last week I paired up with Ottawa-based food bloggers Shari from Whisk: A food blog, and Don and Jen from foodiePrints to see what we could do to get everyone talking about the Gold Medal Plates event set for November 16th. Being the ultimate celebration of Canadian Excellence in cuisine and wine, not to mention athletic achievement (net proceeds from Gold Medal Plates are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation), it seemed like a natural fit – and of course, a very exciting one. Our goal is to feature one of the competing chefs, or any other interesting fact about the event, on every Friday leading up to the event. Here is our first one.

You know how some people are just so nice you want to scream out to the world about them? That's how I felt today after meeting Chef Marc Lepine from Atelier restaurant. This soft spoken, modest and genuinely friendly man made this first-time interviewer feel at ease. I imagine working for him must be the same.

I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

What's your philosophy when it comes to food and your restaurant?
“I'm not much of a philosopher. I don't take it that seriously I guess. But if I had to answer that, I guess I'd like to not take myself too seriously and not have our diners take the restaurant too seriously. I like using high quality ingredients but having fun with it.”

What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes that you create?
“We get asked that a lot and I think they're all random things. It's always something different. I have a 5-year-old daughter and, sometimes I'll be at home on my day off playing and an idea will strike for a dish. I get inspirations from that – just from something she's playing with... Sometimes from other chefs, going out and eating and just the slightest thing that someone has done... It can be a movie, we've had dishes based around movies... Seasons definitely, like the produce that's coming out – the amazing cherries that we had this year. That's the easiest inspiration, you get that and your dish makes itself...”

I know your menu changes often. With the current one you have right now, what's your favourite dish on the menu and why?
“Probably the tomato salad. It's something we call Tomatrix Revolution. Visually I love it and there's something going on there that really appeals to me. I think because it feels really seasonal and being tomato season it just brings me outside. That's corny but I really like that, and because of how intricate it is and I don't think it's something you could find in many restaurants.”

“I also like a dish called Subterranean Homesick Alien that we have on at the moment. Which is the name of a Radiohead song, but it's a dessert based on star anise and cherries. I like the visual, the artistic side of plating something.”

Tomatrix plating

What's the ingredient you can't live without? (other than basics)
“I don't think I have one honestly. Whatever the ingredient is we use it. I guess part of the larger philosophy of this style of cooking is that there's no ingredient that has superior culinary value over another ingredient. I mean, you can take any ingredient and turn it into something quite amazing if it's treated right.”

“We could never have a menu that doesn't have a minimum amount of fish and meat on it because Ottawa wouldn't go for that... if we had no restrictions we could do a menu that had no meat on it or minimal meat and still be as happy with it just because whatever the season, the ingredients that are coming in are all amazing.”

Is there anything you won't eat?
“McDonald's or Burger King. I don't eat foie gras... (but) there's nothing I don't eat because I don't like the taste, I just choose not to eat certain things.”

Guilty pleasure?
“Potato chips.”

What was your most memorable meal and why?
“Hands down it would be the 24-course dinner at Alinea in Chicago. It was very inspiring. It made my head spin. Overwhelming in an enjoyable kind of way. To this day I still think about some of the things that went on.”

What would your last meal be?
“Big bowl of grapefruit. Simple. I would love it – grapefruit is one of my favourite things to eat.”

If you could travel to just one place in the world for food, where would you go and why?
“Spain. Because I haven't been there yet and there's so many amazing restaurants that I'd like to try there. Particularly Roca.”

Describe your perfect Sunday.
“Spending time with my kids. That's pretty perfect. And a nice dinner out that night would be good. With or without the kids.”

If you've never been to Atelier, it's definitely one of those places you must add to your go-to list. The entire experience is like no other. I was there earlier this year and had an amazing time. I'm so looking forward to my next visit!

To purchase tickets for Gold Medal Plates, contact Sue Holloway (contact information below) or click here.

Gold Medal Plates Ottawa
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:00 pm
National Arts Centre
53 Elgin Street

Sue Holloway
818 Nesbitt Place
(613)274-3107 phone
(613)274-0851 fax