By Jacob Richler - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 0 Comments
After 20 years, Montreal chef Normand Laprise publishes his first recipe collection
The first thing I thought of while contemplating the simple white cover of Normand Laprise’s long-awaited first cookbook was a conversation we had five or six years ago at a quiet table at the back of his Montreal restaurant, Toqué! As the scheduled interview wound down, I had asked him what he was planning next. “One thing’s for sure—it won’t be a cookbook. Everybody’s writing them these days.”
It was a fair point. Even then, close to 3,000 new cookbooks were being published annually in the U.S. alone, far too many by celebrity TV chefs equipped with teams of writers and researchers who spared them the trouble of writing—not to mention reading—the many recipes published under their names.
Amidst all that noise, the rare chef now and then releases a cookbook that is greeted as a genuine publishing event. Like Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli 1998-2002, say, and more recently Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook and René Redzepi’s Noma. And that is precisely the way the original French edition of Toqué! Les artisans d’une gastronomie québécoise was greeted upon its release in Quebec last month. Continue…
By Jacob Richler - Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 3:01 PM - 0 Comments
Normand Laprise leads by example, preferring to stay in his Montreal kitchen rather than the TV studio
A few months back I stopped in for lunch at the bar at Toqué!, starting with an intensely flavoured chilled tomato-and-red-pepper soup laced with sesame oil, dressed up with a quenelle of foamed garlic cream and minuscule, buttery croutons. Next, a magnificently tender braised shank of lamb, glistening in the glaze of its reduced jus and nestled on a bed of mushrooms and sweet root vegetables. My companion, meanwhile, had it out for crustaceans, and began with a perfect gratinée of spot prawns, barely cooked and lightly dressed in mornay sauce, then moved on to a robustly flavoured lobster, broiled in its shell with bacon, asparagus and a generous dose of rich lobster reduction. For dessert, a refreshing dish of small, sweet Quebec strawberries, plated with a decorative tuile, crème anglaise and a little strawberry sorbet. Then I popped into the kitchen to thank chef Normand Laprise and his long-time chef de cuisine, Charles-Antoine Crête.
Of course they were there. They always seem to be there. Ever since Laprise first captured my attention with his onion-chive-antenna-sporting salmon tartare, his brunoise-sized ratatouille and the “foie gras fraîchement Toqué!” nearly 20 years ago at his original small room on rue St-Denis in Montreal, I have never once stopped in for a meal and not found him at his post, doing what he does best—cooking. For a chef this should not be unusual, but it is.
Draw up a list of big-name chefs of his generation and you will be hard-pressed to find one with a fresh stain on his whites—unless you count a little spilled blush from the makeup chair at the TV studio. Most of them are far more interested in inking a deal for a new line of monogrammed cookware than writing their next menu.