Happy campers lap up delicious lessons at Foodcamp

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Photo: Sarah Barclay

Local producers dole out samples and (hopefully) rack up sales during breaks between speakers.

Food, glorious food! It was a spread worthy of a Broadway show at the fifth annual Foodcamp de Québec last weekend. For two days, chefs, local producers, distributors, restaurateurs, bloggers, and foodies from around the province assembled at the Chateau Frontenac. They came to network, sit in on presentations given by food and drink experts, and of course, to taste the delicious results.

 In all, 15 presenters gave workshops, including past Foodcampers Martin Brisson of Le Clocher Penché, Martin Juneau from Montreal’s Pastaga, Stéphane Modat of Le Champlain, and Monsieur Cocktail himself, Patrice Plante. Some of Quebec City’s finest establishments were represented among the chefs, including Rocco Cortina of Il Matto, Arnaud Marchand from Chez Boulay, Vincent Chatigny from Biceps BBQ, Sébastien Laframboise from Le District, and both Daniel and Raphaël Vézina of Le Laurie-Raphaël.

 Presenters stood on a low stage at the front of a grand reception room, flanked by grant screens that provided close-ups of the tips and techniques they demonstrated over a portable burner. As they chopped, whipped, boiled and blended, spectators looked on: some taking notes, many taking pictures, and all taking bites of the finished products as they came out of the adjacent hotel kitchen.

 During breaks between workshops, the thousand or so participants were invited to take a tour of the different salons set up by major sponsors Tourisme Charlevoix and Fromages d’ici. The latter’s tasting salon was a cheese-lover’s dream where the delightful funk of washed rinds, porous blue cheeses, and steamy, streamy fondue wafted around the room. A handful of savvy vintners and brewers were in the mix, offering welcome tastes that cut through the richness of all that protein.

Other exotic and wonderful flavours included the emu rillettes and Saskatoon berry liqueur from the Charlevoix region’s booth, vanilla and pink pepper from Madagascar, French chocolatier Valrhona’s blond chocolate, and medieval-era verjuice from the Montreal area.

 Among the booths was also the non-profit La Tablée des Chefs, a chef Ricardo-approved initiative that offers a sustainable food brokerage service that unites food surplus suppliers such as hotels and restaurants with local charitable organizations that feed those in need. The second part of La Tablée’s mandate is educating people into buying, cooking, and using food responsibly, in order to avoid waste.

 Yet all these were secondary to the main events: the chefs cranking out exquisite tastes and tips for their peers and home chefs who were eager to partake, and possibly re-create these flavours on their own. The chefs often spoke as though they were among friends in the comfort of their own kitchens, as opposed to the arguable discomfort of centre stage with only a selection of their own tools.

 

 Rocco Cortina of the Italian comfort food haven that is Il Matto showed the audience his grandmother’s cutting board for making gnocchi just in passing, as though casually mentioning it to a colleague. Raphaël Vézina from the much-hyped vieux-port eatery Laurie-Raphaël took advantage of some down-time while his crabapples baked to show the room a little chart he had thought up to account for Quebec’s eating traditions as a means of explaining what constitutes Québécois cuisine. Yet his tone was more pensive than pedantic, and felt more like an ongoing dialogue than a thesis.

 The overall tone of Foodcamp was fun and easygoing; as one might have noticed chefs tend to be when they are not in the middle of dinner service. And just as chefs also tend to go all-out when cooking for each other, participants had the opportunity to taste some of the very best of what these professionals have to offer. Which of course, left these happy campers singing the praises of all that glorious food.