Chef de Partie, Benjamin Mauroy-Langlais, from restaurant Le Mousso in Montréal won the Canadian regional heat with his signature dish, simply called 'Spring in Kamouraska'.
Showcasing his home-grown talent with a European flavour, his next challenge will be to present his fish dish to a world class panel of chef judges in Milan. Infront of the Seven Sages he will battle 20 other regional finalists for the global title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018.
As Benjamin prepares for the big event, together with his mentor chef, Riccardo Bertolino, we found out more about how the chef fell into cooking as well as what keeps him there.
Describe your signature dish…
My signature dish is smoked eel and celeriac. It consists of several pieces of maplewood-smoked eel with raw celeriac salad rolled in a pickled celeriac sheet. It is dusted with seaweed powder, and served with mussels, spring onions, and a fermented celeriac and sour beer sauce, split with herb oil. The dish is topped with seasonal greens and flowers, including marigolds for freshness. The dish is served with homemade seaweed sourdough bread.
I made this dish because it showcases ingredients from Quebec and traditional preservation techniques. Eel has been a staple of our region since before European colonization. Celeriac is a root vegetable that is available year-round even with our harsh winters.
What made you become a chef?
An existential crisis… I stumbled upon cooking by accident. I needed a job while going to university, and I fell in love with the excitement and the pressure of making food.
I became really passionate about produce, and realized I was becoming good at it, therefore I followed that path. I realized you can have a rather strong impact on people’s lives by cooking them food.
Who has influenced you in your career?
My grandmother was the first person who was really happy about me becoming a cook. She passed on her very strong love of eating. My parents also had a strong influence on how I came to respect ingredients, to be grateful for every animal life taken, and to be mindful of the impact of your diet.
In the world of professional cooking, chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier (now at Réservoir, formerly Hôtel Herman) taught me technique, organization, pride, and sensitivity. Matthew Orlando at Amass, and the New Nordic Cuisine movement (especially René Redzepi and Magnus Nilsson) impacted me as far as the visual presentation of dishes go, and pushed my reflection on taste and transformation further.
Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time?
Owning a business, which will be both a farm and a restaurant, with my colleagues and my family. Through that endeavour, I want to continue my reflection on food and sustainability.
How are you/will you collaborate with your mentor, Ricardo Bertolino, in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale?
I am practicing the dish under his supervision, and we email back and forth on how we can improve and perfect elements of the dish.
What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
The most exciting thing has been meeting new people, and being inspired by their dishes and their perception of food.
The most challenging part is dealing with the stress and pressure of such an important competition.
Why do you think you can win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 title?
I think I have a strong dish that is unique and reflects my culture, but is still very contemporary. I’ve practiced that dish so many times, and I’m proud of it.
If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
I’d be farming or in the military.
What’s your most memorable food experience?
A lot of my memorable food experiences come from childhood. I would climb up the stairs to my grandma's place and sit down with her to eat whatever she'd been cooking: horse steak frites, horse tartar grinder-cut in the Belgian style, or tomatoes crevettes (tomato stuffed with Nordic shrimps).
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to spend time with my lovely wife, I love running, and spending time in the countryside with my friends, hiking or visiting farms.