Patrice Demers: Patrice Patissier, Montreal
Patrice Demers arrived on the Montreal restaurant scene with a bang in 2004—when he was 25 years old.
Everyone was mesmerised by his wildly creative desserts at Les Chèvres, an avant-garde and regrettably short-lived Alain Passard-inspired restaurant in Outremont. They included the still-famous “little jar of chocolate, caramel and Maldon salt.” Next, he spent years as a celebrated pastry chef at Laloux and Les 400 Coups. Then, in 2014 Demers opened Patrice Patissier with partner and sommelier Marie-Josée Beaudoin. This Griffintown salon de thé and pastry shop could likely survive on the strength of his beautiful bûche de noël alone (he sold 740 this season). But it offers a lot more; the place is really a hybrid. While most foodie-clients love the delectable sweets, like kouignamann or chou à la crème with chocolate, caramel and bananas, it’s also possible to enjoy a savoury lunch. Demers has other talents as a salad and quiche maker. Everything is meticulously prepared and chosen, from the artisan coffee cake to the teas, sweet drinks and hot chocolate.
Dominic Fortin: Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler, Alberta
In a health-conscious region of Canada where the final course is all-too-often neglected, the creative chocolates and pastries made by Quebec-born Dominic Fortin stand out as stunningly as the mountains surrounding his Whistler restaurant.
Executive pastry chef at the Bearfoot Bistro, Fortin leans more towards savoury than sweet, a legacy from his apprenticeship at Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island. There, the dessert menus were often dictated by whatever green gems the resident gardener happened to harvest in the morning. These days, his avant-garde creations include candied tomatoes (paired with confit black-olive ice cream) and chocolate tarts (made with his own signature Cuban-Tanzanian-Peruvian Cacao Barry blend) garnished with sourdough ice cream and smoked-hay caramel. His carrot “cake” is actually a light mousse made with freshly squeezed carrot juice and fragrant orange blossom. There was once a five-course dessert tasting menu built around foie gras. Some desserts sound so bizarre—Japanese cotton cheesecake, for instance, or grass-fed milk clouds—they defy simple explanation. But from cocktails (his champagne foam stars in a molecular twist on the classic French 75) to buttery brioche and the elegant boxes of daily petit fours served at the end of each meal, Fortin does it all with grand imagination, skill and grace.