(Vancouver) Last week, the traditional and distinguished Michelin Guide 2023 ceremony took place in Vancouver, unveiling the brand new list of select starred addresses. From the lot, a small name with a distinctly Quebecois connotation once again stands out: St. Lawrence. We met his boss over the summer.

It is to him that Quebec cuisine owes its very first Michelin star in the country, in 2022. A major distinction, awarded as a bonus this year, of which Jean-Christophe (known as JC) Poirier is very proud.

Already, its name suggests that it is not completely foreign to us. A native of Saint-Jérôme, established on the West Coast for 20 years now, the chef and owner of St. Lawrence is far from denying his origins, as evidenced by the name and front of his restaurant (in French), planted like a oasis in a rather industrial neighborhood of Vancouver. On its menu joyfully throne cretons, ears of corn and other concoctions based on maple syrup.

One early morning at the beginning of September, when he has just picked up his mother at the airport (direct from Montreal, to look after his children, since he is about to take a vacation that we guess is deserved) , the award-winning chef agrees to meet us to tell his story, even if the day promises to be busy. After all, it’s a Saturday and we suspect that it’s not exactly the least busy day.

No matter, our man takes his time, as if he had his life ahead of him, and answers gently and thoughtfully to all our questions. After kindly serving his matriarch a coffee (“Do you want some cream?”) and putting on her apron, it should be noted.

“The star gave me the opportunity to change things,” he says straight away, seated in his small dining room with around forty seats, decorated in a slightly old-fashioned way, but not without charm. Forget the refined look, here we are instead surrounded by tapestries, multiple frames and selected curtains, for a warm and intimate atmosphere, bordering on kitsch, but in good taste.

So what exactly did he change? Jean-Christophe Poirier, whose restaurant has received a number of other distinctions, has taken the liberty of raising his prices somewhat here (to $125 for the tasting menu now), for one reason only: “Increase employee benefits . Everyone got a raise. We got a star, it’s because you worked well,” he summarizes. In addition, it reduced its opening hours (from seven to five services), making it possible to offer two days off to its employees (the restaurant being closed on Sundays and Mondays), in addition to two weeks of rest. summer, and two others in winter.

In his own way, Jean-Christophe Poirier is trying to fight against certain scourges of his industry. “Everyone talks about the problems in the industry, the long hours, the fact that we work all the time,” he summarizes. The only way to find solutions is to charge a price. And that star is a seal of approval! »

The renowned guide arrived in Canada in the fall of 2022, but has only awarded stars in two Canadian cities: Toronto, then Vancouver. Will Montreal soon make its entrance there? Nothing has been announced in this regard yet.

According to Jean-Christophe Poirier, who studied at Les Remparts, formerly in Old Montreal (between studies at Collège LaSalle, then a stint at Toqué!), it is first and foremost the originality and authenticity of the St. Lawrence which earned him this coveted distinction. “In Vancouver, there are a lot of Asian restaurants,” he argues, “but we are the only French and Quebecois cuisine. » A clear menu and an unequivocal orientation set it apart: “Customers know what they are going to eat, there is no vagueness, there is a direction: it is classic French cuisine, with a Quebec touch . »

This is how Jean-Christophe Poirier, to whom we owe a book of recipes inspired by the menu of his restaurant (Where The River Narrows, nominated for the Taste Canada Awards 2023) and a recent association with the loan company -to cook Goodfood, allows itself to play with certain classics (by replacing the traditional bread, butter, rillettes with cretons, for example), while revisiting others – and daring the tourtière in place of pithiviers, why not !

A certain freedom, that is.

A freedom which, according to him, is found almost everywhere in Montreal. Which explains why the man emigrated – besides, no doubt, for the possibility of walking around in a t-shirt at Christmas and being surrounded by mountains, he confided during the interview. But we get lost. “Here [in Vancouver], sweetbreads as a main course, people had never seen that. In Montreal, it’s everywhere! »

In all humility, he concludes: “I always said that I would not have had as much success in Montreal. There are many other restaurants that do this kind of cuisine! » But in the meantime, he remains the one and only star!