Head Chef J.C. Poirier is from Quebec and grew up mostly around Montreal. At from a very young age J.C. loved to eat and through this passion he learnt to cook for himself. One of his favourite dishes to cook up was escargot with garlic butter. This may sound fancy to most of us, imagining a teenage boy cooking one of the signature plates of French fine dining. It was however his economic conditions at that time were what led J.C. in this direction.
The idea of becoming a chef, really took hold when J.C. got his own place. He was always preparing meals for himself and his friends. He loved cooking because it felt natural to him.
He put himself through Riverside Park Culinary School during the day by working the graveyard shift at the Montreal Casino. It was a brutal year, but the money was good and the focus was always to end up working at a restaurant within a year.
This is exactly how J.C. started and quickly found his way to Toque in Montreal, which was considered to be the best restaurant in Canada at that time. It was an incredible experience, to learn from renowned chef Normand Laprise. He was able to strengthen his culinary skills and work in a fast paced environment, which always required perfection. At some point the learning curve started to plateau and he felt it was time to move on.
It was hard for J.C. to find something else in Montreal, to match the level of Toque, so he decided to travel. His English was non-existent in those days, so it also became an opportunity to learn a new language.
The first restaurant where J.C. became a partner was Chow, a seasonal fine dining concept. He was 27 years old, hungry and wanted to take on the challenge. The restaurant barely lasted two years, due to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
It was, however, an invaluable experience because J.C. now had first hand experience on the business side, which would pave the path to where he is today. It was also a time of self-reflection: after working non-stop for a number of years, he decided to take a break and travel around South America for a year.
His travels made J.C. realise it’s not about having things that should drive you, but rather the love of doing what you want to do. Cooking was his passion, but it had to be on his own terms if he was to move forward.
St. Lawrence is now his 5th restaurant, is under his group Kitchen Table Restaurants, which includes Pour House, Pizzeria Farina and last but not least, Ask for Luigi.
Ask for Luigi has been incredible success since opening 6 years ago and was a game changer for J.C. in ways he couldn’t have imagined.
As much as he loves Italian cuisine, he never had a real opportunity to create a space that was truly his. The success J.C. has now affords him a platform to cook the food that represents his identity.
Everything is French, from the menu, wine list, the music and my staff. They even do all the service in French. The idea is to transport the guests and give them the feeling that they are not in Vancouver anymore, but somewhere in Quebec or even Paris.
The dishes are ones you would find in old cookbooks or what chefs learn in culinary school. It is one of the primarily reasons St. Lawrence has captured the imagination of critics, chefs and foodies alike. The varieties of dishes you find here are rarely seen together. It is as if J.C. has restored old artefacts to their shining glory, and everyone wants a taste of what was lost for a very long time.
The current trends in the Pacific Northwest primarily point towards farm to table and Asian influences. The approach that St. Lawrence follows is completely contrarian to this.
I do have to admit this is type of food is very foreign to me. I am however always open to trying new things, especially when it comes from a place of love.
This dish represents was wonderful mix of flavors and textures. It is the mix of pork, foie gras, hazelnut, pastry and gelée. This was wonderfully balanced with Dijon mustard and the crust of the pastry.
This is J.C.’s take on a old French classic. It is traditionally a sweet dish, but he has decided to go for a savory version by going with the decadent foie gras mousse. The saltiness of baked chicken skins perfectly balances the richness of the foie gras, with the sweet wine reduction and figs.It’s an addictive dish you’ll want to hoard all to yourself, but it is definitely meant for sharing.
The Montréal Canadiens flag is first thing you notice. It is J.C.’s way of making a highly technical dish playful. The pastry shell is cooked perfectly, which makes a mouthwatering crispy sound, when you cut into it. The minced Venison is cooked with potatoes, mushrooms and garlic, spiced with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. This is comfort food at its best and it is not hard to see why it is a favorite among the regulars.
Tarte au sucre | Sugar pie and Vanilla cream
This is a dessert you would find in most homes in Quebec. Every family has their own recipe, which has been passed on through generations. The version that J.C. shares is from his Grandmother, and the combination of the sugar and vanilla cream, makes this the perfect way to end a meal.
You feel the authenticity in these words, while you eat. The menu flows effortlessly. It is a triumph in old school cooking, which we thought was well behind the rear view mirror.