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On the Pass: Marcel Kretz

MARCEL KRETZ (1931–2023)
Even though the history of Quebec gastronomy is short, far too few remember its early, formative days. Consider the recent passing of chef Marcel Kretz, at age 91. If nowadays it is commonplace to write menus that include the provenance of local ingredients in a dish, be assured that it was a radical departure more than 50 years ago when Kretz started doing it with his menus at La Sapinière, in Val-David, in the Laurentians. He was a tireless promoter of his adopted Québécois and Canadian cuisine, which he put in the foreign spotlight proudly, by cooking in countless international competitions. Kretz arrived in Quebec in 1953, shortly after earning his culinary diploma at the prestigious École hôtelière de Strasbourg. This Alsatian transplant embraced Quebec cuisine and products wholeheartedly and, in the process, introduced (or reintroduced) many Quebeckers to some of their own neglected culinary heritage. The avid gardener and passionate mycologist joined the historic Hôtel La Sapinière in 1961. He ran its kitchens there for close to 30 years and, under his tenure, it became the first Canadian hotel to be listed in Relais & Châteaux. After his retirement in 1990, he took up teaching at the École Hôtelière des Laurentides. Between those two postings, he mentored innumerable future culinary luminaries, and those relationships endured. Le Club Chasse et Pêche chef and co-owner Claude Pelletier worked at La Sapinière only briefly but always remained in touch. Joe Beef chef and co-founder Fred Morin studied under Kretz at École Hôtelière des Laurentides. In 1998, Kretz became the first chef to be named to the Order of Canada. The National Order of Quebec followed in 2018. Remember him.