After a day touring the Côte de Beaupré, Québec's historic coast, I arrived at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, one of Canada's most renowned historic hotels. Situated in the heart of Old Québec, overlooking the majestic St. Lawrence River, the hotel is the true symbol of Québec City.
Stepping through its doors, we were greeted by a young lady, dressed in the costume of the mid 19th century. In a few minutes, she recounted the hotel's history with its many dramatic moments. There was the story of the Canadian Pacific Railway and its luxury hotels such as Le Château Frontenac.
Afterwards, we were ushered into a room where Ryan Marquis, Sous-Chef of Le Château Frontenac, was ready to give us a demonstration of how to cook exquisite, yet simple to prepare fine dishes.
"Guess what I'm going to do this evening?", the seemingly always smiling Ryan asked our group of ten, sitting around a rectangular table sipping our wine.
"Prepare the best food in Québec City!" a group member answered. "Wrong!" Ryan grinned, "I'm not boasting, but I always prepare the best food in town! Tonight, I plan to make you all gourmet cooks."
"Who is the lucky one who would like to help me? I'm going to begin my first dish," he
Ryan's personality and culinary aura seemed to affect everyone, especially the ladies. A beautiful young Asian woman in our group stood up, "I will!" She appeared excited.
Soon she was chopping the scallops while Ryan thinly sliced the trout, then prepared the sauce for the appetizer rolls. Seemingly, as if by magic, he set about creating the rolls. With a wide grin, he continued.
"Don't worry! This isn't all! I told one of my cooks to prepare you the same dish." I sighed in relief.
In a few minutes, Ryan and another volunteer prepared a cantaloupe soup. "Dishes like this one are handy when there are thousands to feed." Ryan said and reflected, "When I was a chef in one of the largest New York hotels, I prepared dishes for hundreds of people at one time. It was there that I discovered simple dishes are the best."
Ryan exuded confidence as he began to prepare the entrée, Lobster Stew. With skillful hands and a knowledge that comes with experience, he boiled and cut the lobster, formed small balls from the turnips and carrots, then with the other ingredients, cooked the stew before calling on the waiter to bring us our steaming dishes. I enjoyed the stew. It was devine.
Our meal ended with a fresh fruit dessert. During the dinner, I thought he was boasting, but after relishing the four-course repast, I came to appreciate his skills. The food, along with the antics and anecdotes of our chef, made for one of the most exciting culinary experiences that I have ever enjoyed.