Portrait of a Chef
An interview with Richard Bastien, Chef at Le Mitoyen Restaurant
A marketing 2.0 expert with a passion for her work, Isabelle Vallée greatly contributed to Montreal’s cultural vitality as a communication specialist for important fashion events held in the city. Working as a freelancer since 2011, she helps organizations tackling the challenges of ensuring an online presence by offering services in 360-Web strategy, community management and personalized content marketing. In January 2015, Isabelle launched lesbonsplans.ca, a cultural platform for which she acts as Executive Editor and Photographer. Isabelle is curious, a foodie and a culture lover. In her blog she makes suggestion of what to see, do and discover on Montreal’s North Shore, Laval and in the Laurentians.
I had the great privilege of meeting the man behind the success of Le Mitoyen Restaurant for over 40 years (it opened in 1977) located in the lovely neighbourhood of Sainte-Dorothée in Laval. Richard Bastien, the head chef and owner of this renowned restaurant, welcomed me in his home and talked with great passion about his cuisine, his restaurant, history, and gastronomy. Here’s my interview with this great Laval chef.
Richard Bastien, you’re a self-taught chef. Tell me what sparked off this passion for cooking.
At a very early age, I already had a genuine interest for cooking. Thanks to my mother that allowed me to be around her in the kitchen when I was still very young (laughs). I remember that for Sunday dinners, I loved to make desserts, which were quite elaborate for the time. As one of my first creations, I made cream puffs by reproducing a recipe I had seen on TV. I was a young person with a true passion for food. My parents were market gardeners, so we always had a vegetable garden at home. I was often accompanying my father to the various markets. The contact with nature, vegetables and farm animals certainly inspired my choice of career.
Honestly, I never thought that I would work as a restaurant cook. At the most, I was dreaming of working in a small café. In my twenties, my friends encouraged me to consider a career as a chef. The ancestral house in the heart of Sainte-Dorothée that is home to the restaurant inspired what was to come!
How would you describe your type of cuisine?
Our cuisine is widely inspired by the availability of Quebec’s products, whether for protein (poultry, lamb, foie gras, etc.) or fruits and vegetables. In summer, I get my products from a Laval gardener (who works in exclusivity with Le Mitoyen). Twice a week, he delivers us vegetables (carrots, beets, radishes, tomatoes, asparagus, etc.). Since the opening of the restaurant, our dishes are always well garnished with seasonal vegetables, which is an aspect that differentiates our cuisine.
Describe what is a typical day in a chef’s life
On Tuesday, I start my day by going to various markets. I go to Marché Central, Vietnamese markets and Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal. Then, I meet my team at the restaurant to plan the menus for the week, which are created according to the findings of the moment. For instance, we plan a variety of appetizers, and we decide what should be kept on the menu or modified to reflect the season. It’s really teamwork.
How do you make sure to stay on top of all trends in cuisine?
By reading books and magazines. Basically, I read all the books on gastronomy. Also, the teams and cooks working in my restaurant inspire me a lot as well as my son Jérémie (who is also a chef). We both go to a new restaurant at least once a month to discover what’s new in gastronomy. My son and I, we are travelling as often as we can to the world’s major gastronomic destinations (London, New York, Chicago, France, Barcelona) to discover the latest trends.
Do you have some tips for people that would like to cook more?
I would say to dare using more seasoning. People are using very little or no seasoning at all, and don’t use any salt. It’s essential to season a recipe at every step, not only at the end. Also, one must not hesitate to use herbs. In summer, it’s easy to add flavours with fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, coriander) and in winter, with saffron and caraway.
What is a must on the Mitoyen’s menu?
If I must mention only one dish, I have to say the black pudding that is on the menu six months of the year. The recipe is inspired by my mother’s original recipe. It’s a signature dish that is very appreciated. In my childhood memories, it was one of the best meals of the year!
In closing, tell us where is located the best table in your restaurant?
I can’t tell you the exact number of that table, but I know it’s in great demand. But I can say that the tables in the small lounge with the fireplace are in great demand. Once you had eaten a meal in this small lounge, you will want to come back. Its authentic cachet adds magic to the room.
Throughout the years, Richard Bastien won numerous prizes for the quality of his cuisine and his restaurant, including the renowned CAA prizes (4-Diamond Prize in 2001 and 2004) and the Dirona Award for Dining Excellence awarded to 600 restaurants in North America (2002-2004).
Le Mitoyen is among the 20 Quebec restaurants that are classified 4-Diamond restaurants by CAA/AAA.
In February 2017, Richard Bastien received at the Townhall of Montréal the Chef cuisinier Award of the year from the Société des chefs, cuisiniers et pâtissiers du Québec (photo).