As of October 10, 2012, Derek Dammann, the well-tattoed chef who, with his business partner, Alex Cruz, built a stellar reputation for Montreal Restaurant DNA, has created the sort of restaurant he is all about…democratic and fun, delicious and fresh, thoughtful and sustainable.
In opening Maison Publique Chef Dammann, seen here at the left with his U of Guelph Innovation Award, is revisiting the past, but as usual, his eye is on the horizon. He might laugh, with a finger tip is sunglasses to sit atop his ginger-coloured hair, wink and quote another famous Montrealer, “Just watch me!” And we will as will most of the food writers on the continent, as his restaurant also bears the cred of another superstar, Jamie Oliver, a first for Canada. But it’s Dammann’s food voice you’ll find here. And it’s a strong one.
The history of the public house in Canada goes back centuries. They were road houses, station stops and inns. Many of us remember the time when there was an entrance for Men Only and another for Ladies & Escorts. They were/are gathering places…no reservations…real local hangouts. And that’s precisely what Dammann is heading. His food, in many respects, is the future.
Not only is he a master of charcuterie, he is as close to an expert in Canadian wine as you’ll find in Quebec. The pinot from Flat Rock Cellars in Niagara was perfect with the cured and peppered beef (pictured below). Hailing from Campbell River, B.C., the ‘salmon capital of the world’, he’s also well versed in the finest seafood. His pickled herring (below right) are the best I’ve ever tasted. The innovative Alex Cruz, while no longer on the floor as he was at DNA has founded Societé Orignal (Society of the Moose) supplying Maison Publique with foraged ingredients that are among the most interesting and unique in Canada. From gathered seasonings like myrica gale and green alder cones to Arctic rose buds and gourgane flour, made from the heritage beans saved year to year in the Charlevoix, you can find his ingredients from New York to Toronto and, of course, all over Montreal.
For Dammann ”local” means “Canadian” and because he has cooked across the country, he knows the great hidden ingredients. His passion and his talent are astounding. He aims for 90% Canadian content.
He writes: “I take great pride in serving sustainably grown and harvested produce, meats and seafood ‘because food tastes better when its ingredients are the product of thoughtful stewardship.’ I have a whole animal philosophy at DNA and will always have one or two dishes featuring offal on the menu because it preserves an overlooked part of our culinary heritage.”
Maison Publique is one of about 280 restaurants which are taking part in Food Day Canada. Head to the corner of Gifford and Marquette in Montreal to join the party.
4720, rue Marquette (coin Gilford)
Montréal, QC, H2J 3Y6
T: (514) 507-0555