Farm-to-Table with Vincent Dion-Lavallée
By Kaitlyn McInnis
Photography by Marc-Olivier Bécotte
After years cooking in Paris and London, Vincent Dion-Lavallée returned to Cabane d’à côté, sister restaurant and neighbour to chef Martin Picard’s Cabane à Sucre Pied de Cochon, a 45-minute drive from Montreal. Here, Dion-Lavallée’s love of the land and rustic simplicity comes through in every bite with farm-to-table freshness.
What makes Cabane d’à côté so special in the winter?
In winter, we produce all of our own maple syrup for the year — we’re on 180 acres of maple forests and have 10,000 taps. So, the restaurant functions like a real sugar shack. And throughout the year, we start pickling and preserving for the colder months. Instead of serving traditional baked beans, ham and pancakes, we do a lot of vegetables and preserves. We use only local Québec ingredients year-round, so you’re really following the seasons.
What keeps you creative, so you can maintain your farm-to- table ethos?
I get new ideas all the time just by working the land. Sometimes I’ll be walking in the woods and find a huge patch of porcini or oyster mushrooms. There’s no question they’ll be on the menu the next day! You need to cook with what’s available at the moment. And because we do a lot of our own farming, we keep it simple and respect the ingredients. We don’t buy tomatoes from someone else, we’re actually growing them ourselves.
What called you home after cooking abroad?
I originally wanted to go to New York, but what made me want to return was Martin [Picard]. I’ve always loved him and I owe him so much. He is such an icon of Québecois cuisine, but it’s not just his cooking that’s so special. To him, it’s not only about being a good chef; it’s working the land. And Martin always told me that if you want to be exceptional, you have to do things differently.
What are you working on now?
We have an orchard on the property, but instead of just selling the apples, we’re going to make them into cider. I never thought I would be making cider in my life — I’m a chef, not a winemaker or cidermaker. But it’s a new way of thinking and doing things. Right now, I’m just focused on making great tasting cider.
**Find this article in re:porter magazine issue 74!