Martin Picard was recently in town at Barbara Jo’s promoting his new cook book, Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack with a book signing. I am not afraid to admit that I am a pretty gushy fan of his. When Au Pied de Cochon self published their first cookbook, I called the restaurant in Montreal trying to get a copy. The hostess was astonished that someone in Vancouver had actually even heard of PDC, let alone want their cookbook.
Well, in the intervening years, Martin Picard’s enthusiastic exploration of Quebec cuisine and rich excess has won him legions of adoring fans (even Rob Blumer showed up to the event, adding some Food Network buzz to the proceedings). It’s easy to overlook that there is also restraint in what he does, keeping his cooking firmly in the world of real food and not stunt cooking. “Sometimes what I cook looks simple, but behind it there is a lot of complexity and technique.”
Picard opened Au Pied De Cochon’s Cabane À Sucre about five years ago to celebrate the food of the country side and the traditional sugar shacks that turn maple sap into syrup. An immediate hit, reservations for the season sell out within hours each December 1st. The new cookbook aims to give a taste of what we are missing, with a focus on detailed step by step photos and recipes that work.
“Each recipe was tested almost seven times, and we are sure that people will have great success with it. I am very proud of the fact that the people will be able to taste real maple syrup in each of the recipes… The maple eclairs that were made here [by the cooking team at Barbara Jo’s] taste exactly like the one’s we did in Montreal.”
For many, including myself, the first step in trying the recipes is getting over the idea that maple syrup is a luxury product to be used sparingly. Picard wants us to conquer our prejudice.
“It’s much like how olive oil is treated. We have a false idea that we need all sorts of olive oil that you drizzle a little on things. Then you go to Spain you see how it’s really used.”
The PDC’s no holds barred food has clearly made a huge impression in the culinary world – with even California taking notice and influencing Los Angeles’ Animal Restaurant. For Picard, “It’s very cool that when you have success, you inspire other people, as I have been inspired by other chefs and restaurants before me.”
As with all great chefs, Picard’s generosity underpins everything he does. He shares local Quebec cuisine with us because he loves it and wants us to love it too. He wants us to really celebrate and enjoy maple syrup, perhaps the most Canadian ingredient out there.
“We are so happy when people are coming from other provinces and the US to come and eat with us.” And with the new book, Picard says “Now we can really share our passion.”
We have a copy of Martin Picard’s new book “Au Pied De Cochon Sugar Shack” to give away to the first person to correctly answer the following question in the comments section below:
What renowned Montreal restaurant did Martin Picard help open in the early 90’s?