Culinary Arts

Le Pop-up Bouffe

Antonin Mousseau Rivard

We ate a meal of locally grown food

Chef Antonin Mousseau Rivard (Le Mousso Restaurant) challenged his chef friends to prepare an exclusively locavore meal during an evening on an urban agricultural farm. This entailed using products cultivated in or within 100 km of the Island of Montreal.

With this project, Mousseau reflects on economic systems by applying the local sourcing concept and offering succulent appetizers that are edible works of art.

Story

Chef Antonin Mousseau Rivard and his friends from Alaclair Ensemble organized a feast on the site of the future MIL campus at the Université de Montréal, creating an extraordinary gastronomic experience: a dinner consisting of 100% local foods.

Hidden in the midst of a building site engulfing one of the last centrally located vacant lots on the Island of Montreal and hemmed in by two railways, an improbable garden flourishes. At the foot of the eccentric MONT RÉÉL pyramid, a temporary collective design experience that evokes Mount Royal looming in the background, honeybees gather pollen in the Miel Montréal floral garden wedged between the foreman's office and the fence behind which heavy equipment relentlessly excavates the vast site.

In the distance, huge tower cranes bring building materials into the reinforced concrete skeleton of a university building under construction, while several men work in the belly of what will become a centre of knowledge destined to nourish the bright minds of future generations.

A freight train passes by, brakes squealing as it pulls several freight cars, perhaps loaded with black gold from the West to nourish our insatiable appetites at the risk of starving the planet by permanently disrupting the climate. It is followed by a passenger train, most likely bringing hundreds of people from the city where they earn their income home to their bedroom communities in the suburbs, where supper might be waiting.

Following a butterfly flitting among the beds of a flourishing collective garden, we come across a fledgling farmer harvesting huge zucchinis. "I never manage to harvest them in time! ", she sighs. She grows food in community gardens to feed people in her neighbourhood at affordable prices.

A sign that urban agriculture is increasingly popular – a television crew is busy filming in Bioma Coop's market garden a bit farther on. The garden has been wrested from the gravel of a former railroad yard. And since the seeds of the future can be sown anywhere, the Friends of the Mountain nursery stretches out before us, like the promise of urban nature ready to reassert its rights in the city and even conquer hostile terrain by decontaminating previously fertile lands, as long as we give it the chance.

An imposing presence in the middle of this jumble of equipment and installations is Le Virage, a structure made of modified steel containers. One serves as the canteen where the chef and his team are hard at work.  Mingled with the dissonant sounds of the urban soundscape is the drone of ventilation systems at a nearby factory and the rumbling of a generator. The chef steps out of his kitchen to greet the artists who have just arrived.

Time for the first round. The bar features a locally distilled gin-based cocktail made from Quebec corn, as well as local beers and even a local wine. There are no vineyards on the Island of Montreal, but there are a good number within a 100 km range of the city. No white wine this evening, however. When you drink locally made products, you have to be content with what's on offer!

The chef was busy in the kitchen during the band's sound check, firing up the grill and decorating fresh salads of the day with edible flowers as novice locavores began to arrive. They sat at tables alone or in small groups waiting for dinner to begin.

Once the food was ready, everyone lined up in single file. No prayers before digging in, but brief thanks and a passionate speech from the chef promising diners delicious meals made with locally sourced products available in Montreal or the immediate vicinity. Between the fresh vegetables and herbs grown on-site, fish caught in the St. Lawrence River plus dairy products imported, as it were, from a farm 77 kilometres from Montreal, he achieved his goal of creating a full meal consisting of local foods. "It’s a question of choice," he noted, adding that he wants to make people aware of what's possible with locally grown or produced food.

While the worker ants were taking a break or sitting down to dinner with the cicadas singing in the darkness, dessert arrived. Cotton candy made of maple sugar and foie gras - why not? Tomorrow the construction site will continue to devour the city. So what shall we eat?


By Simon Van Vliet

Utopia

A recurring dream: go back in time, back to the early 16th century and walk amidst fields of corn planted by the Iroquois on the slopes of Mount Royal in the heart of the island, before the Europeans set foot here (and then boots, stones, churches, weapons, roads, factories). To walk into a field full of squash, beans, tobacco. To see the island of yore, often wild but with farms here and there, a fertile garden flourishing between the two branches of the river, a hunting ground rich in fish and game.

And afterward? The St. Gabriel Farm established by Marguerite Bourgeoys, for starters. Cabbage, turnips, lettuce – the first vegetables planted by the colonists. Then wheat, oats, hemp and flax. The orchards of the 19th century – apples, plums, apricots! And then the famous Montreal melon, extremely popular in the early 20th century.

Century after century, wave of immigration after wave of immigration, fruit and vegetable gardening has been a constant in Montreal, despite runaway urbanization. 42% of the island's inhabitants have a tiny, small, medium or large kitchen garden (1). The champions were families from southern Europe, devoted producers of red peppers and tomatoes, fanatical proponents of intensive farming in small spaces, an inspiration in recent years for advocates of urban agriculture. The city now has almost 140,000 hectares devoted to agriculture.

On the Island of Montreal.

That is the premise for food self-sufficiency that Montreal could achieve with the support of market gardeners in Montérégie, the Eastern Townships and the Laurentians. It is a source of enjoyment and pleasure (eating what you grow is glorious), and it is a necessity (given that the environmental crisis is now our fate).


WE WANT

We love good food and prefer products that are locally grown and raised
We dream of savouring everything that grows within a 100 km radius of Montreal
We want to ardently wage our kitchen garden campaign
Let us sow where we want, when we want, and let us see those seeds of food autonomy flourish.
We want to eat what's good for us
We know that what grows in our backyard, on the balcony or in the community garden is the best.
We want to turn our gardens into the lungs of the city
Because gardens are magical: they improve air quality, reduce heat islands, protect biodiversity, absorb runoff...
We want rainbow trout and golden walleye pickerel
And perch and bass and pike from the St. Lawrence River
We want to return to an economy that is local
We believe that our gardens can also grow jobs in service to people
We want to sow beauty throughout the city
We know that gardens provide solace for the eyes, calm the soul, cover urban scars and supply a welcome breath of fresh air.

We are Montreal.
We want the future, right now.

 

(1) 2013 BIP survey

Traces

Food and Economy

ID card

Antonin Mousseau Rivard

Antonin Mousseau Rivard

At only 32, Antonin has no less than 5 renowned restaurants to his credit (Sarcelles, MAC, Le Contemporain). Having skipped out on culinary school, Antonin is a self-taught chef who pushes the limits of the kitchen: in addition to making exquisite dishes, his plates are always breathtaking in terms of colour and assembly.

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Co-production and co-diffusion

The Association des restaurateurs de rue du Québec
LA SERRE – arts vivants

Partner

FONDS de solidarité FTQ

Thanks

Le Virage MTL
La coopérative Bioma
Alaclair Ensemble

Credits for the piece

Creation Antonin Mousseau Rivard

Video

Director and Editor Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah; 
Camera Isabelle Stachtchenko, Charlie Marois, Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah;
Sound Sophie Bédard Marcotte, Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah;
Filming was made possible thanks to the equipment provided by ON EST 10, solidarity co-op

Photos

Event Maxim Paré Fortin
Portrait Bénédicte Brocard

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