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Chef Colombe St-Pierre Is A Superstar

She was one of 12 promising international chefs featured at June’s Al Mèni, the popular Rimini food festival created by Italian culinary superstar Massimo Bottura.

And legendary food critic Andrea Petrini has invited her to participate in two of the annual avant-garde Gelinaz! culinary events he organizes, where her cooking and lively personality—she has a penchant for costumes (she appeared on Al Mèni’s stage wearing a Montreal Canadiens uniform), colourful wigs and outlandish sunglasses—have won the hearts of top cooks from around the world.

Colombe St-Pierre may be essentially unknown in Canada outside of her native Quebec—she won that province’s Best Chef award in its inaugural Les Lauriers gastronomy prizes last year—but she is recognized internationally as one of this country’s most creative chefs. “When we do Gelinaz!,” says Petrini, “she’s that last drop that makes everything overflow.” World-renowned Slovenian cook Ana Roš, who met her at the 2017 Gelinaz! in Austria and then travelled to Montreal to cook with her last year, is also a fan: “I have never met someone so special, so spontaneous and with such an open energy flow. She is creative and honest in whatever she does.”

What’s particularly astonishing about St-Pierre, 41, is that she’s built her reputation in out-of-the-way Bic, Que., a village of about 3,000 on the shores of the lower St. Lawrence River about 300 km northeast of Quebec City. There, the self- taught cook and her French-born husband, Alexandre Vincenot—they have three children—run Chez St-Pierre, where she serves vibrant dishes based on local ingredients such as crab, sturgeon and lamb, and often including wildflowers, seaweed and samphire. “I cook to express a territory because I am in love with the land where I come from,” says St-Pierre. “And the people, too!”

The chef spent her childhood on nearby Île Biquette, where her father was a lighthouse keeper. She moved to Montreal to study but by the age of 18 became a chef at a wine bar in the city. As a young woman, St-Pierre spent eight years travelling around the world and working in restaurants. “It’s how I learned how to cook and also what I wanted from my restaurant,” she says.

Now when she travels to international food events, she often stays true to her Québécois heritage. At Al Mèni, she and an assistant served clams steamed over a Quebec seaweed broth and then smoked in a fire of evergreen branches, topped with mayonnaise infused with a light fir essence. She also added a crunchy salad of carrots and daikon, demonstrating that St-Pierre remains open to international influences. Many agreed her offering was one of the best at the festival.

— MARIE-CLAUDE LORTIE

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