As the day was drawing to its end, I arrived at the farm La Colline du Chêne in Bromont, an initiative aimed at producing organic vegetables at a fair price. Ève, the project manager, was busy pulling weeds from her lettuce field as I walked on the green lawn towards her. With her denim overalls and a blade of grass in her mouth, her wide smile embellished the already magnificent landscape covered with fine herbs dancing in the wind. It was her wish to return to natural and ancient growing methods that, this year, motivated Ève to start her first planting season using almost no machinery. Practically all the field work was carried out manually. This new direction, more and more in style with new generation vegetable growers, gives their trade and these producers’ mission a whole new meaning. Ève showed me a lady who was carefully watering small plants in a very straight row: “Take, for example, Stéphanie; she’s here today because she needed to reconnect with the land. She took a day off from work and came just to be with us! We’re really open to this,” Ève explains while eagerly biting into a radish she had hidden in her pocket. Here, everyone seems to be on the same page; people take the time to live in the present moment as they adapt to the rhythm of nature. A philosophy, I must admit, immediately charmed me and which can be felt through the beauty of the organic vegetables Ève grows. Also, the lady Ève was talking to me about, isn’t the only one who has reconnected with the land! Ève, later introduced me to a few other colleagues, lovers of the land, who left their city jobs definitely to become vegetable growers here in Bromont!
At that moment, Isaël Gadoua, executive chef of LUMAMI cuisine nature, BALNEA’s restaurant, was coming down the hill to join me. With Ève’s blessing, we picked a few beautiful heads of red lettuce, some kale and radishes for today’s order. He then opened up about the essence of his art and his vision of how a cuisine should be developed. He starts out by clearly stated his position: “I don’t like to talk about myself, I prefer we talk about my cooking,” he explains, with a smile. With his great authenticity, he then welcomed me inside his world, where people are at the centre of his preoccupations, and where harvested produce offers the perfect canvas for his creations.
Fresh food is what stimulates Isaël more than anything. For him, working alongside the area producers is what galvanizes him: “There is a real difference in flavour when we work with vegetables we’ve picked the same day. I often come here to select them myself.” Isaël has quite a network of local producers. Among them, the farm Les Carottés which also provides him with many fresh products. “I receive a list and pictures of what they have to offer every week, and I select what they have ready. If it’s tomatoes, I take these tomatoes and integrate them in different ways in my menu.” Ismael works hard to adapt and integrate different foods to create his dishes. One thing is for sure, with such sensitivity and an irreproachable passion for the terroir, Isaël and his vegetable grower colleagues have built quite a system for showcasing local people and products. All I still have to do now is to head out to LUMAMI, at only a short pedalling distance. — The Colline du Chêne farm can be found on the same country road as BALNEA. What a great way to savour summer in Quebec: Right in our plate!
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