By Habeeb Salloum
It was at the fantastic gourmet feast, La Fete Des Saveurs, hosted by the Table Agrotouristique de Charlevoix in Quebec, that I first met Jean-Michel Breton, Executive Chef at Le Manoir Richelieu.
He was one of the some dozen chefs who donated their work and time to an annual celebration by the Table Agrotouristique, an eco-friendly organization. That day I realized that Chef Breton not only produced lavish meals for the most prestigious hotel in the region but was also a supporter of charitable causes.
The five-star Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, Chef Breton’s gastronomic home, is nestled majestically 700 feet above the St. Lawrence River between the sea and the mountains only 150 kilometres, east of Quebec City. Referred to as “the Manoir on the Cliff”, the hotel offers one of the best golf clubs in Canada, a world-class casino and some of the top foods in the world, all amid luxury.
Chef Breton, who was born into a family of restaurateurs in Lyon, France, received his cooking diploma form Institut Paul Bocuse — one of the most elite cooking schools in the world. He began his profession by working in a number of hotels and restaurants in Lyon, and in the process developed an appreciation for grand hotels.
In 1980, Canada’s luxury abodes lured him to Canada where he worked for a good number of renowned hotels as Executive Chef at the Sheraton Centre Montreal and the Hotel des Gouverneurs in Montreal, as well as Executive Sous-Chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal and Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. In June 2000, he was appointed Executive Chef at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu.
Today, he supervises and creates dishes inspired from Charlevoix regional products for the kitchens of all four restaurants of Le Manoir Richelieu. He supervises some 70 sous-chefs and other employees and trains new chefs on a daily basis. As well, he is flexible when it comes to emergencies like the time when an invited dessert chef could not make it to a function due to a snowstorm. At the last minute, Chef Breton and his team had to create a dessert for his 300 guests.
Most menus prepared for groups are customized based on the guest’s specific needs. With his Sous-Chefs, Chef Breton prepares the meal according to food requested and the time frame provided by the group. Groups that he has hosted recently include Canadian and provincial associations, pharmaceutical, technological, corporate and governmental parties.
One of the menus Chef Breton is proud of is the one that he prepared for Gala des Grands Chefs – 2007 – “The Chef Welcomes You” — an annual gastronomic event at the Manoir — which features seven courses, including Foie-Gras, Charlevoix Lamb and Fleurmier Cheese.
Chef Breton is not only a renowned chef working for his colleagues and guests’ satisfaction but he also takes part in numerous community affairs. During Christmas and Easter holidays, he gives cooking courses to a wide range of participants from children to adults. At the same time he is working on new culinary trends and on creating an interesting alternative for allergies.
As for his own taste, when asked what he preferred from the thousands of dishes that he has created, Chef Breton answered: “Foie gras, beef ‘onglet’, halibut and Chile Sea Bass.”