Canada - Jean-Claude Chartrand
Maître Rôtisseur
Executive Chef / Owner: Restaurant l'Orée du Bois, Chelsea (Quebec)

To emerge from the pack as a culinary leader, one must grow with intelligence, imagination and technique. So it is with Jean-Claude Chartrand, Executive Chef-Owner of the Restaurant L’Orée du Bois nestled in a secluded stand of mature trees 15 minutes from Canada’s capital Ottawa in Chelsea, Quebec.

L'Orée du Bois has built a reputation for providing the finest French and regional cuisine. The restaurant’s website features a unique dish – "Beggar's Chicken", a dish with a history all its own.

As Jean-Claude puts it, “In 1990, I was serving an internship in China. In a Suzhou restaurant near Shanghai, I tasted a recipe called Beggar’s Chicken. The origin of the dish is literally legend: a beggar stole a chicken, which he reportedly dropped in the mud while being pursued. On retrieving the chicken, the beggar cooked it still covered in the mud and imprisoned its juices, conferring a unique texture to the meat.”

Born and raised in Rockland, Ontario, Jean-Claude graduated from College in 1989. As part of an exchange student programme in 1990, he served that aforementioned internship at a business college in China. He was in Provence in 1997-1998 where he studied wines at the “Université du vin Château Suze-La-Rousse” and later worked at La Roseraie as a Chef. Today, as well as his restaurant, Jean-Claude has a private import company that deals with 15 French wine makers.

In his early days as a chef, Jean-Claude worked in a number of renowned restaurants. On his return to Canada in 1998, he became the “right arm man” of the renowned Guy Blain, founder of L'Orée du Bois. This is the beginning of an exciting culinary adventure! Ten years later, in 2008, Jean-Claude and his wife Josée became co-owners of the restaurant and sole owners in December 2012.

At L’Orée du Bois, Chef Chartrand has created a cuisine that combines traditional and new dishes with an added touch of originality. He is always willing to outline his views on cooking and assist those in the general public that are interested in unique recipes and culinary techniques, especially through regular appearances on culinary TV and radio broadcasts.

Eric Jones
Chargé de Presse

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In a Question and Answer session we find out more about Chef Chartrand’s background and culinary philosophy …

From where does your love for gastronomy come?
My mother had me inadvertently fall in love with food. Being the “baby” of an 8-child family I was very close to her and helped her feed Rockland its wedding cakes and special occasion banquets. I was always with her whether in the kitchen or the colossal garden we kept near the house. She made sure I knew how to taste properly.

You have obviously inspired a lot of young chefs – where (or who) do you draw your inspiration?
I think cooking is an art that goes far beyond the food. Guy Blain taught me to manage a kitchen with a human touch. I draw inspiration from the endless source that is Mother Nature: animals around the house or restaurant, recently a marvellous painting by a local artist, sometimes my daughter Lolita will simply say the right words to set me out on a new journey for the perfect recipe.

What would have been the biggest developments in gastronomy that you have witnessed in your years as a chef?
The microwave. Molecular gastronomy. The internet. Biological agriculture. Cooking shows and books. The most important development however is travel. Travelling abroad has become much more accessible and is the most influential on my cooking and personal life.

What do you think are the most significant trends and challenges faced by gastronomy today?
Now more than ever, people want to be healthy. The real challenge the food industry is facing today is providing families with freshly-grown foods that don’t have a six-year shelf-life. Lobbyists and lawmakers aren’t helping and right now politics seem to be sitting between people and their health!

What do you think today’s chefs should be doing to keep moving gastronomy to a new level?
Young chefs need to aspire to grow their own gardens and encourage local producers. Getting your hands dirty is only the first step to mastering the art of gastronomy. In my restaurant, our first priority is always the food. You can’t overlook the quality of any aspect of a plate. If you’re providing your kitchen with local and fresh ingredients, you’ll always come out with a better tasting product, and everyone can enjoy that.

What advice would you give to young aspiring cooks?
Travel, work with the best chefs, be dedicated, and learn. Money will come later in life.