Illustration by Rupert Bottenberg

Site menu:


Site search




The Cave Men: Montreal chefs’ basement secrets (in enRoute, November 2011)

The first time I went downstairs to find the facilities at Le Comptoir charcuteries et vins, chef Ségué Lepage’s wine bar in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood, I opened the wrong door and ran straight into that week’s pig. He was hanging out (or rather hanging up) in a cold room. Across the hall – still not the loo – was Lepage’s cutting room and charcuterie lab, full of gleaming stainless-steel instruments, a fermenter, an oversize sausage stuffer and a water-circulating oven for cooking sous-vide. It all looked more like a surgery than a kitchen, nicely framed by a large museum vitrine. Clearly, at this address, the basement is where the action is.

From the olive oil amphorae stored in the Arcadian hills of ancient Greece to Arcadia, Iowa, where my grandmother stored bread-and-butter pickles in her farmhouse basement, a cook’s stockpile of the year’s yield has always belonged in a cool, dry place – in the cellar, among the roots. But since cook-to-order menus and open kitchens have become the norm, the preparation of dishes has transformed into a spectator sport. Chefs everywhere are turning to their subterranean quarters for a little privacy. Read article