As the temperature drops Montrealers are heading indoors, which is good news for foodservice.
“Restaurants are starting to pick up as people head inside for comfort foods,” said Claudine Beaudry, fruit and vegetable lead for distributor GFS Montreal.
“Soups are a strong trend, and I’m seeing a lot of greens on plates — from arugula and artichokes to baby greens, micro greens and sprouts at the higher end,” Beaudry said.
“I also see a bit of organic, but it’s just starting. The trend is much stronger when I go to the U.S,” she said.
Mike Bono, vice president of St-Laurent-based Can-Am, said winter isn’t an exciting time to be supplying chefs.
“For the next three months they’ll be using parsnips, parsley root, beets and rainbow carrots with no stems,” Bono said.
“There are going to be a lot of roasts in the oven and a lot more soup,” he said.
When it comes to cooking local, Quebec chefs are way ahead of consumers, according to the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.
Jean Lefebvre, the association’s vice president of government affairs, said the separatist Quebec government recently tabled a policy on food sovereignty to encourage Quebecers to buy 50% of their food from local sources, up from the current 33%.
Yet Lefebvre said the province’s chefs are already at 61%.
“Our chefs are fully into buying locally,” he said.
The government’s Aliments Quebec (Quebec food) program is also moving into restaurants, he said.
“We have a program whereby 50 restaurants will be highlighting five items on their menu completely comprised of Quebec products,” he said.
Chefs in large Montreal hotels such as the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth are getting more requests for local ingredients from clients planning large events and conventions.
“With all the local options for fruit, roots, greenhouse vegetables and mushrooms, it’s easy for us to come up with menus for them,” said chef Marc Lintanf, the hotel’s manager of business development and outside catering.
In summer, some growers will even grow a particular vegetable or a field of greens for a single event, Lintanf said.
During the annual Grand Prix weekend in June, the hotel’s chefs served 30,000 VIP meals of mostly local products.
In the fall, Lintanf and his team preserve their own fruit, and he thinks nothing of slipping root vegetables between layers of puff pastry, or pressing carrots, celery, sunchokes and salsify into a cake.
“Sometimes we don’t know which farm it comes from, but it’s all local,” he said.