A chef’s craft is best described as culinary art – The art of creating dishes that are as pleasing to the palate as to the eye. Techniques from preparation to presentation require a high level of skill and imagination. Chef Renée Bellefeuille creates her masterpieces in one of the most inspiring venue’s in Toronto, The Art Gallery of Ontario.
1. Tell us about yourself…
Having spent a number of years working as a pastry chef, I have a continued affinity to the sweet kitchen while still in love with savoury cooking. I am fortunate that in this role I am able to dream up and create food that appeals to a very broad range of guests. From afternoon tea to multi-course weddings to a sandwich in the café. Every day is a new challenge and that’s what I love. Constant learning keeps me motivated to inspire the team in the best ways possible.
2. How would you describe your kitchen?
Robust and versatile. The AGO kitchen teams have a vast array of styles and skill sets. Our banquet team is responsible for our custom wedding and corporate special events, while our Bistro and Outlets teams run our day to day operations servicing over 800,000 gallery visitors each and every year.
3.How is the dining experience at AGO unique?
We not only take seasonality as a focus when creating menus, but ensuring that the major exhibitions are highlighted is a part of our menus. Most recently our major exhibition was Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more, which had a very French/Parisian focus we took classic French food as our inspiration creating beloved classics like Sole a la Meuniere and savoury cheese soufflé.
4. How are your dishes inspired by the art in the gallery?
Typically the culinary team and I will discuss the broad scope of our major exhibitions. If a particular artist is being featured we look into where the artist is from, food items from a particular era, culture and of course imagining the art as food.
Creating menus with a Belgian style is what we are working on over the next few months as our major winter exhibition is Early Rubens.
5. What’s your speciality dish?
I don’t think there is one dish that I favour more than any other but I’d have to say a beautiful roast chicken is probably one of the most perfect meals and I always personally crave.
6. What’s your favourite ingredient to use and why?
Ooh, that’s a tough one…but probably butter. Whether sweet or savoury, butter is often key in the most luscious bites. Think of the perfect hollandaise made of emulsifying butter into egg yolks or puff pastry, flaky with layers of butter. Its absolutely perfect!
7. Share your all-time best culinary tip…
Don’t be afraid to season your food. So often when I am instructing new cooks, they are hesitant to add salt or even splash of lemon juice. These ensure the first bite and last bite are perfect and a guests palate isn’t bored or underwhelmed. Balance is key, salt and acid are your friend in crafting a great plate of food.
8. Favourite piece of Chef Works gear?
Elyse Women’s Chef Coat. The fit is fantastic, feels good and looks great.
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