21 Questions with Chef Sebastien Houle
Mont Tremblant is known for a wide variety of luxurious and cultural activities. With private mountaintop chalets, a quaint pedestrian village, dog-sledding and awarded restaurants, visitors will never be without something to explore. Amongst these venues lies a small restaurant with a very big personality: sEb L’Artisan Culinaire.
Chef Sebastien Houle and business partner, Guy Bourbonnière, opened their cutting-edge restaurant in 2005 in the town of Mont Tremblant. It has been a huge success and is without question, one of the best restaurants in the Laurentians and a true culinary experience. Chef Houle and Sommelier Bourbonnière are often refining their menus while always offering originality, rich flavors and a diverse selection of fine wines.
Over the Christmas holiday, we had the opportunity to speak with Chef Houle himself. Following a life of travels and learning from chefs around the world, he decided to settle in Mont Tremblant with his Four Diamond restaurant. We wanted to know more about where his inspiration is rooted and where his seemingly endless knowledge of flavor profiles comes from to create such memorable menus. We decided to have a little fun with him about his interests in life too. So, grab a glass of wine and enjoy a little game of 21 questions with Chef Sebastien Houle:
How did you get started in the industry and what made you realize you wanted to work in food?
My adventure in the culinary world began when I was 17 years old. My dream was to travel and thought that being in the business of restaurants was the way to go, because there are restaurants all around the world and people need to eat. For me, it was perfect.
Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?
When I started my training, I had already worked in a kitchen for about three years. So I had on-the-job training and insight already. I had the good fortune and advice of a French Chef on the west coast of France to thank for getting me into culinary school. One day, he told me that cooking was NOT for me. I knew that wasn’t the case and told him that this is what I really wanted to do. So he said the only way for me to succeed is to attend a culinary school and learn everything I can. After that, I booked my flight home and went to cooking school and graduated. Today I am sure to always advise the younger generation of cooks to not give up on school and learn everything you can.
[bctt tweet=”Today I am sure to always advise the younger generation of cooks to not give up on school and learn everything you can. #foodie #chef”]
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on in the last year?
This year’s most exciting adventure was our new toy!! A Food Truck that we built from scratch! We finished building it last June and operated all summer 2015. I LOVE IT!
Who is the person you most admire in the food industry?
I admire Pierre Gagnaire’s philosophy about cooking, the way he has built his name and brand and the fact that he is one of the few French Chefs that was before his time in his cooking techniques.
What is your favorite part about being a Chef?
I find that teaching new talent is my favorite aspect of being a Chef today. This is a time in my life when I don’t have to prove to anyone that I am a Chef. I can instead invest my knowledge in the younger cooks and see them grow. What a great reward for me!
What are you most excited about in the coming year?
Don’t tell anyone… but I am working on a tv show!!! The concept follows a Chefs around the world who travel for learning. I can’t say more … even if I wanted too!
How would you describe your food?
Comfort food with a twist of fine dining utilizing a variety of techniques and flavors from all of my international travels. Yes, I am a “foodie” down to my core and so very passionate about food.
[bctt tweet=”Yes, I am a foodie down to my core… #Foodie #nomnom”]
How do you unwind after service?
Over the years it has changed. Of course, when I was younger it was very different from now. Today I have a gorgeous wife and a wonderful kid at home. Things change. I find myself watching hockey a lot in my free time. I’m a big hockey fan!
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received from a mentor?
The best advice and the worst advice I have ever received is the same. My mentor always advised to speak well and with a positive word when engaging with others. This is more difficult than it sounds. Learning to speak properly is difficult enough. Add to that being mindful of a positive word when things are difficult. But it helps one to grow to be a better person. I am very thankful to have such a sage mentor.
What are three essential cookbooks on your shelf?
First is my Mother’s cookbook. A few years ago I asked her to gather all the small recipe papers from her years of cooking, her mother and her grandmother. Most of these she just stored in folder over time. She put this into a lovely recipe book. Now, I refer to it all of the time, because it is my heritage and therefore a huge inspiration.
The second essential book in my library is my own cookbook. It represents me and my style of cooking and I often use it to teach others.
I always have a good pastry book nearby.
What is one recipe/ingredient that you struggled to master? How did you overcome the struggle?
PATÉ CHINOIS! I always make a delicious pate chinois, but struggled to make it aesthetically appealing on fine dinning tables. That is until this year. We now have it on the menu.
Paté chinois is like a sheppard pie kind of, but with mince meat, cream of corn and mashed potatoes on top and then bake (that’s the classic).
Our paté chinois on the menu has the same base of ingredients, but with a twist. We utilize braised oxtail, with sautéed snail, corn and topped with a yellow Yukon gold potato. It not only tastes delicious it looks pretty good on a plate!
What’s your go-to hangover cure/food?
BLT with fried egg , cheese, avocado and Tabasco
What were your three best meals this year?
First meal: Was on a boy’s getaway sailing trip. We stopped off on a island in the British Virgin Island, and were invited by a local fisherman to eat all his catch of the day behind his restaurant beach bar. We dined on lobster and fish on the coals, with a few beer. It was amazing!
Second: Probably another fishing trip up north Québec. We made some fresh wild catch right on the riverbank.
Third memorable meal was at a food festival at Les Halle de Bocuse in Lyon. Last winter we were there traveling for for the Bocuse D’Or. It was crazy all what we had that night!
What’s your guilty pleasure snack while watching your guilty pleasure TV show?
Spaghetti bolognese. What can I say? It’s my favorite.
Do you have a secret talent?
I am very good a ping-pong.
What’s your favorite kitchen scar?
A few year’s back, on a New Year’s Eve, I severed a nerve ending on my index finger. Now I have lost all sensation on that finger!
What was your biggest kitchen disaster?
There have definitely been a few, but one that I can say stands out. One of my dishwashers once threw out a full 16 liters of hot duck fat down the sink drain. Not only did he not realize it was good fat, he didn’t seem to realize that you don’t throw fat down the sink! When I found out, I turned white!
[bctt tweet=”What was your biggest kitchen disaster? #foodie #chef #nomnom”]
What is your funniest kitchen incident?
When we all placed a bet on which stagiaire would sniff some wasabi powder for $20. One of them actually did it! His name is Tibo and now he is quite a good Chef.
Favorite way to cook an egg?
Fried with gallo pinto, (Costarican rice and beans with eggs) and hot sauce.
What inspires you?