Political science leads to everything… once you’ve dropped out, that is. Just ask Jonathan Lapierre-Réhayem, a 2008 ITHQ graduate and, since early 2017, executive chef of its restaurant. In the years between, he slaved over the hot stoves at some of Montreal’s top restaurants like Brontë, La Montée de Lait, and Laloux. “I studied poli-sci and washed dishes for a living. Frankly, I preferred the latter, which was far more enjoyable,” he says. “Then I transferred to the ITHQ to study restaurant management.” The move eventually led to several internships abroad – in France, China and Japan.
Lapierre-Réhayem’s return to the ITHQ was motivated by a specific goal: to imbue as many future cooks and chefs as possible with a taste for terroir. He also wants to champion a fundamentally Québécois cuisine – from the provenance of its ingredients to their treatment by culinary artisans. He’s keen to share his love of Quebec products – includingsea urchins, asparagus, wild mushrooms, seaside plants and shrubs – with the new generation.
“When you buy locally, the impact on the environment is less harmful, and you’re also boosting the local economy,” declares Lapierre-Réhayem. From his point of view, the ITHQ is a favourable outpost for leading the culinary charge: “I have far more influence at the Institut than in the private sector because I come in contact with the next generation. Making them aware of the virtues of local products will have a great impact on the future of the restaurant business.” The chef – who also oversees the cateferia, banquets and the ITHQ expertise centre – points out that one of the reasons why he was hired in the first place stems from the ITHQ’s desire to reinforce the development of local products.
The ITHQ is Canada’s leading hotel management school specializing in tourism, hospitality, food service and sommelier training.
Tradition and modernity
Lapierre-Réhayem is also happy to see that his old alma mater has kept up with the times: open to the wide world and the latest culinary trends and preparing students for the contemporary restaurant business. Graduates can expand their horizons by taking advantage of internships anywhere in the world. The training program emphasizes the basic elements of the trade and concludes upon graduation with the creation of modern dishes. “Sure, it’s just a school, but what a school! When graduates start working in a restaurant, you can tell right away they’ve got everything down pat. The dishes they prepare reflect contemporary North American cooking, rather than cuisine anchored in the French tradition. And we keep a careful eye on the market.”
So ITHQ graduates arrive fully prepared, armed with creativity but also with the rigour essential to their profession. This strict attitude sometimes bothered the youthful Jonathan Lapierre-Réhayem, but today he understands the role it played in permitting him to achieve success. “When I was young, I was not a big fan of authority. I questioned everything I was told, no matter who the instructor was. At the same time, the school instilled a sense of discipline in me. I learned to put on a white jacket and a white apron – and keep them white – and to be neatly shaved and dressed. Perhaps it’s a little like a military academy, but it shows through in your work. You’re better organized, there’s less risk of cross-contamination and everything’s where it should be. All that’s reflected in the way you prepare the food.”
By Jonathan Lapierre-Réhayem
4 to 6 servings
200 g (1 1/3 cups) oat flakes
75 g (1/2 cup) chopped green onion
60 g (1/3 cup) duck fat
100 g (2/3 cup) crushed hazelnuts
70 g (1/2 cup) sugar
Pinch of salt
600 g (21 oz) Laliberté or Riopelle (or any mild triple-cream) cheese, cut in large wedges depending on the number of servings
5 Honeycrisp apples
20 mL (4 tsp) honey
Pinch of minced parsley
1. Preheat oven to 120°C (250°F). 2. Sweat green onion in duck fat. 3. Add oat flakes, nuts, sugar and salt. 4. Spread mixture on baking sheet and bake for 2 hours. 5. Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and let cool. 6. Peel and dice 3 apples. 7. Sauté diced apples in butter over low heat, add honey, and simmer. Transfer to a blender and process into a smooth purée. Set aside. 8. Thinly slice remaining 2 apples, and mix with sunflower oil, cider vinegar and parsley. 9. In a shallow soup bowl, add a spoonful of honey-apple purée. 10. Place a cheese wedge over it. 11. Add apple slices and top with some oat crumble and a teaspoon of honeycomb.
What to drink with this cheese dessert
Why not try an ice cider? Its delicate balance of fruity, caramelized notes and acidity makes it an ideal match for this cheese and apple dessert, brilliantly juxtaposing sweet and savoury flavours. The earthy and creamy cheese, the toasty notes of oats and hazelnuts, the honey’s mellow taste, the crisp apples – all echo the ice cider’s aromas. And it’s a local product, to boot, compatible with Chef Lapierre-Réhayem’s advocacy.
Photography: Dominique Lafond