1. Samuel, could you tell us a little more about yourself, including your background, your inspirations, and your track record?
My background is quite atypical. I went to college and university before the most beautiful profession in the world chose me. In fact, it is not a choice on my part, but rather the opposite. It was hard for me to get rid of my intellectual shell to gradually go towards the thing that attracted me: baking and cooking. Because before I was a cook, I was a baker. My love of things well done, of perfection and my obsession for understanding flavors led me to perfect my art in Europe. It is by traveling on this continent that I was able to open my gustatory horizons. Upon my return to Montreal, I worked in hotels, spas and began to take an interest in competitions and in particular the Bocuse d'or, a competition that fascinates and obsesses me since 2011.
2. Last July, you obtained the second place at the Bocuse d'Or Americas qualifying you for the grand finals of the Bocuse d'Or in Lyon, how did you feel knowing that you will participate in the most prestigious culinary competition in the world in January 2023?
I was overwhelmed with giddiness, but at the same time with infinite joy and gratitude towards those who help me make this journey to competition a dream come true.
3. You are a cooking teacher at the Institut de Tourisme et de d’Hotellerie du Quebec (ITHQ), what values do you try to instill in your students to be a good chef?
I think, in all honesty, that I try to transmit to my students the passion, not the one that is fleeting, but the one that comes from the heart. I try to provide them with the necessary tools, so that they have confidence in themselves and have enough humility to dive into the unknown and surpass themselves.
4. You have 5 hours and 30 minutes to cook a dish and set up a hot plate under the demanding eye of the best chefs in the world, it's very intense and it can be stressful. Do you have any little habits or techniques to channel the pressure?
It is indeed very stressful and demanding on many levels. But over time, the team and I have developed a method where I repeat the same gestures, the same movements, until my brain no longer needs to think. It is about developing strong habits, just before entering the box, being in the box and leaving it. This routine becomes a way to make me feel secure.
5. What do you think of French gastronomy? Do you have a particular attachment to one or more types of French cuisine, a French chef, or a particular dish?
First, it's not what I think, but what I feel about French gastronomy. I deeply love this know-how, this absolute rigor that Michelin stars must maintain to always make their stars shine. The art of the table, the importance given to the products, to their origin and to the producers, the care given to their treatment, define for me a large part of French gastronomy. All this without forgetting, of course, the techniques put forward by the masters of this gastronomy, which today are a school of thought all over the world.
I have a very particular attachment to Alsatian dishes and bakery. Perhaps because I have lived there and had the chance to meet producers who explained their land to me. France is a country rich in its terroirs and its multiple regions, which inspire me. In addition, my coach Gilles Herzog, a chef for whom I have immense respect and admiration, is from Provence, so I must say that I am also becoming infatuated with this region and its specialties.
It's not so much a favorite dish as an indelible memory in my head and soul. It is the richness of a technique that I believe is one of the emblematic dishes of French gastronomy: the soufflé. I had the chance to taste the best soufflé in the world at Monsieur Pierre Gagnaire's in Paris in 2007.
6. The restaurant business is constantly evolving and plays a crucial role in our impact on the planet, what is your vision for the future?
I think the evolution is good and necessary. We need to move from questioning to action. The consumption of specific and non-varied meat products, the despoiling of the oceans and the bad management of our soils must come to an end. The ancients, in the kitchen, did not trivialize the economy, the revalorization of less noble products to make them exceptional products. Less noble does not mean poor quality, on the contrary. The most beautiful culinary creations inscribed in the codes of French gastronomy come from the know-how to use the products to their full potential. But it is up to us, in our kitchens and restaurants, to educate our customers; to bring them to discover something different than what they know.
Do the exercise! Ask yourself how many varieties of apples you know, then eat and see what varieties are out there. You'll have your answer right away, to what we need to change to stop screwing up our planet. The answer of the future will be, in my humble opinion, a balance in the consumption of VARIETY, food. The unbridled consumption of the same products is what impoverishes our land, livestock, crops, and oceans. Education through the plate will become the most powerful weapon to fight the negative impacts that our industry has on humanity and our planet.
6. Finally, do you have a funny story to share with us about France?
Not so crispy, but I still have the most beautiful memories engraved in me with this country. Besides, since 2003, I travel frequently every year in France. Paris, Lyon, and Strasbourg are for me the most beautiful cities on earth. Where I would not hesitate to live immediately. I am a great lover of France, and this forever.