Chef Sébastien Houle spent several years as head chef on some of the world's largest yachts, including Tatoosh, the 303-foot private yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. In 2005 he returned to Québec and opened Restaurant sEb l'artisan culinaire. His inventive cuisine is inspired by his many voyages throughout the world, while using the very best local products in the Laurentians and throughout Québec. Locals and celebrities alike come here to appreciate extraordinary cuisine (and sEb's great charm). I recently caught up with sEb to understand more about what motivates his culinary approach.
What started your love of cooking?
A lot of my passion comes from my mom. Cooking and preparing local Québec meals was a tradition at my house. When I was about 10 years old and we would go to a restaurant, I'd sneak away to see what was going on in the kitchen and watch the chef at work.
What was your first professional position?
As a chef in an Italian restaurant in Australia.
How would you describe your style?
I've travelled all around the world, and visited many food markets. I love to capture an informed balance of tastes from opposite ends of the earth, suddenly reconciled to bring out their best and, simply, for pleasure. Whatever you are cooking, the key ingredient is passion!
Where is the most unusual place you've had to create a meal?
That's easy -- during a safari in Australia near Darwin! I had to de-bone and prepare a giant serpent on the barbeque for 15 people!
Home chefs are always interested in techniques that can help them improve -- do you have a tip you could share with them?
Don't be afraid to try new things. It will only improve your creativity.
You've created menus and prepared food for many well-known people -- what's the most memorable event that you've done?
Probably the first time that I served Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones at the restaurant. We were closed and they came for some tapas. It was memorable and we became friends over a bottle of wine.
What has been the most amazing ingredient you've worked with and why?
I recently discovered garden lovage. It's an herb that tastes like celery, but has a special delicate flavour that goes well with tomato, chicken, and fish.
Do you have a favourite meal experience?
I had a great experience at Per Se Restaurant in New York City in 2006! I had the tasting menu, with the wine pairings. One of the dishes that really stood out was the Carnaroli Risotto (Carnaroli has a higher starch content than Arborio rice, and a longer grain as well, so it keeps its shape better during the slow cooking needed for risotto), with shavings of black truffles, paired with a 2002 Romanée-St-Vivant Pinot Noir. I can still imagine the site, smell and taste of that meal!
If you're creating something for yourself, what would be the meal?
You'll likely be surprised! My favourite dish is spaghetti Bolognese! That's my comfort meal.
What would be your perfect food day?
I'd be on a 160-foot sailboat, anchored near Palma de Majorca, preparing and feasting on fresh seafood. There'd be a great bottle of Spanish white wine. And my beautiful wife would be right next to me, of course!
If in the Laurentians, be sure to book a table at sEb l'artisan culinare. You'll enjoy sophisticated and innovative cuisine, with ingredients from local purveyors such as Morgan Farm and Ferme biologique Aux petits oignons. And don't forget the wine pairings from Sommelier Guy Bourbonnière! Saturday mornings until August 31, you'll also find sEb at the Marché d'été at Mont-Tremblant. This month, Chef Sébastien Houle also curates the FoodiePages.ca CHEF'S BOX, a delicious food of the month club that shares the favourite recipes and local food finds of Canada's best chefs.