Colombe Saint Pierre –Le bic, Canada The voice of Bic Her name is Colombe. Before even setting eyes on her, you hear her laugh, her accent that sings, her immediate use of the informal “tu”. She wears a colorful ribbon in her hair; the color changes everyday, but her aura and infatuation seem unshakeable. This we know for certain: it’s rare to meet such a strong personality in such a small being. Despite having her restaurant Chez Saint Pierre (her last name) to run, a team to manage, and a family, Colombe never falters, she just goes for it; nothing seems to faze her. She bought her restaurant and inn when she was twenty-five years old, and yet, just a few years earlier, she never would have imagined herself a cook. Truth be told, Colombe is precocious: “I left my village of Bic at sixteen to travel.” She left to become a journalist and to travel the world: Australia, Germany, Chili, and Malaysia, where she met her husband Alex, a Frenchman. That was already thirteen years ago. Alex, who was intent on teaching Russian at a university, became the biggest supporter of his wife’s cuisine. We were moved by the way he stepped back when Colombe told the story of an ingredient, a dish, by way of an anecdote. Like that remarkably delicious pig, a pork medallion greased with pancetta, served with pork and feta ravioli and sautéed chervil and chanterelle mushrooms. A nice piece of ‘ass’, as Colombe described it with her bubbly spontaneity. “This is the pig her grandparents used to eat,” adds Alex. It is cooked like a roast, wrapped in homemade pancetta. “It took me five years to master charcuterie”, she states, as if that were a common challenge. A responsible cuisine Their voices weave together as their story unfolds. Family is Colombe’s anchor. Even though she left Canada to travel quite early in life, without any hesitation, she claims that her parents are responsible for her desire to cook. “Responsible” may be a strong word, but with this chef, committed from the onset, it takes on a whole new meaning. “I could have thrown myself, body and soul, into journalism, but I felt that I was too young. And I needed to make a choice. While I was travelling on the other side of the world, cooking revealed itself to be the best point of entry into new cultures, new rhythms, and more importantly, new tastes.” According to her, it was her responsibility to demonstrate that Canadian cooking was not limited to ‘poutine’, that it had an endless horizon of possibilities. “Who are we? What is our culinary identity?” These are the questions that animate Colombe today, louder and clearer than ever: “Cooking is like politics. In Bic, I have taken on the role of ambassador. I have to demonstrate that we can nourish ourselves with local produce and feed ourselves autonomously.” Here, on her turf in the middle of Bic National Park, she feels at home. Her father lives just steps away and often goes to pick up his granddaughter at school while her parents are at the restaurant. One often bumps into her little girl delightfully devouring a piece of bread in the restaurant, where kindness reigns supreme. “I don’t want to run a kitchen with a negative atmosphere. The people I work with are sufficiently mature to be independent, and open-minded enough not to expect me to be the commonly accepted authoritative chef.” In fact, Colombe has a hard time defining herself as a chef. “I suffer from the self-taught complex”. Elegance and grace And yet, when we met up with her a couple of minutes later on the water’s edge, assembling an oyster nestled in a hollandaise sauce, bread crumbs and Nordic shrimp, just like that, on a rock, we knew then and there that she ha no reason to be intimidated, that she was right where she should be. A simple blast of the blowtorch to get that smoky flavor and the gigantic and meaty mollusk turned to candy. Perhaps that is what grace looks like. Despite her escapades to the other end of the earth, her cuisine has nothing “worldly” or “fusion” about it. She has too much personality, integrity, to create a vulgar “one size fits all” cuisine. Her tuna gravelax, pink radish salad and rose milk strikes the perfect balance between bitterness, acidity and floral notes. A quest? Rather an affirmation. Of femininity, sensuality, independence. Spices are also of great interest to her, like her culinary anchor. “I began cooking through spices. They might as well have been my exchange currency.” We delighted in finding the foie gras au torchon in the middle of the meal, served on a buttered brioche with long pepper, a citrus granita and crumbled almonds. And while Colombe does not seem to pay much attention to the originality of her approach, the diner is seduced. What a brilliant idea to give this legendary dish such a pivotal place, thus inviting the diner to give into this indulgence shamelessly. Colombe doesn’t weigh herself down with contemporary culinary trends. “What fascinates me the most are flavors, and how they interact.” Le Bic, a world apart After a visit to her father’s mill, we realized that this beloved daughter definitely took after someone. In the summer/winter loft that she set up, an exquisite smell envelopes you. “It’s the leftover turkey. They weigh about 15kg each so there is a lot that can be done with them!” Colombe’s father, a carpenter and boat builder, explains casually. We also stumbled upon twenty kilos or so of vibrant red tomatoes. “There are kilos of sauce in the freezer, it’s literally overflowing,” he tells us with a twinkle in his eye. And yet, Colombe doesn’t use the family’s personal produce for her restaurant, “She prefers to manage on her own”, explains the man everyone in Bic calls “papa”. Just a few hours drive from Quebec, and yet we felt as if we were in another world, where time follows its own rhythm. Even if, in the summer, masses of tourists come by to traipse through the park and gaze in awe at the migrating geese and seagulls, as soon as October arrives the calm returns. The atmosphere becomes muffled, only the changing leaves crackle under your feet. The village of Bic is in hibernation. This is when Colombe and her family settle in to their winter quarters. “We close the restaurant six months a year. Our clients desert the place, so we decided to do something else”, she explains. “I become a private chef, I cook for people in their homes. It’s different, it’s fun. At times, my clients are stunned” explains Colombe with her unabashed enthusiasm. Because, in the end, her approach to cooking is ever present. Sensual, kind, intelligent, spicy, humorous, vivacious, these are the words that best describe her compositions, her notes of intent. A former student destined to become a journalist has not only found her place, she has also found her voice. vidéo:

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