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Vegan and Raw Chef Stephanie Audet on White Chocolate Mousse, Cooking Competitions, Farmers Markets, and Raw Poutine

Posted by Amie / July 18, 2013

stephanie audet raw and vegan chefHave you ever wondered if all vegans miss poutine? I know I have. All that hot, sticky sauce that comes in a can or box marked "brown" drowning twice-fried oil-soaked potatoes nestled under young curds of cheese by-product...How could you not miss that? So when I sat down with vegan chef Stephanie Audet to talk poutine, Balnea Spa's "10th Chef" competition, Montreal's best farmer's markets, and the secrets of raw white chocolate mousse, would you believe that she said she doesn't miss Quebec's national dish anymore? But once upon a time in Texas, she did. And that's when she made a raw version with dehydrated avocado fries coated with flax powder, sprouted buckwheat, onion powder, oregano and salt, and topped it with cauliflower "cheese curds" and a miso gravy. Chez Claudette has nothing on this.

Speaking of the late-night poutine place on Laurier, Audet recently went there for her birthday after watching the sunrise on the mountain with friends who'd had a wee bit to drink. But instead of eating poutine, she went home and threw together her own meal, which she ate while her friends dug into their deep-fried messes.

stephanie-audet-brunch-brazil

"It was my birthday and I was like, 'I guess I'll go.'" said Audet. "But I came [home] and steamed some kale, and made an almond butter-mustard dressing and brought some rice cakes and sweet potato puree I had in the fridge." Glass tupperware in hand, she marched to the restaurant. "Everybody was jealous! They were like, 'Oh wow! Your stuff smells so good! Can I taste?' I was like, 'Yeah. You don't like your tandoori poutine?'"

Suckers. All of them.

How did kale possibly win out over poutine? "Vegan food's a lot about the presentation. I don't have problems with this anymore," says Audet. "My stuff always looks good because I understood with little tricks and experience over time its easy to make it look good with no effort and no extra time."

stephanie-audet-brunch-brazilBrunch pop-up in Brazil. Menu: local fruit; acai bowl with white granola; mini spinach and mushroom quiche

Speaking of making it look good, Audet just made a video for Balnea's Summer of Chefs. She's applying to be the 10th invited chef to show off a dish for a week at the health spa outside of Montreal. The gist is that nine great Quebec chefs including Antonio Park (best Japanese/sushi/Korean in Montreal), Barry Pall (executive chef of Crudessence), Marie-Fleur St-Pierre (Tapeo), Laurent Godbout (Chez l'Épicier), and Hakim Chajar and Daniel Vézina (Laurie Raphael) put a dish on the spa's healthy menu for one week of the summer. Spa-goers enjoy some yoga, scenic strolls, thermal baths, private lakes, pools, beach clubs, hot tubs, along with the lighthearted fine dining on offer that week and then vote for their favourite week/dish/chef. The tenth chef to be invited for the event is chosen by the public based on a video demonstrating what they'd prepare for their week in the menu spotlight. Here's Audet's:

Vote for Audet here!

Audet started as a line cook in gluten, dairy, and meat-heavy fine dining restaurants in BC, but has been vegan for 8 years, and vegetarian for 15. She officially went vegan after touring a fish farm and seeing how disgusting and disease-ridden they can be. Then she realized that fancy restaurants weren't so great sometimes: "Even if it's five stars they use the same ingredients Claudette uses in her sauce. It's just presented differently." After opening a raw food cafe in Texas she moved to Hawai'i and worked at FujiMama Asian fusion restaurant in Kona. "It was like the best restaurant of the year but now it's closed because Hawaii's crazy." Post Fujimama, she stopped working in conventional kitchens and started catering, doing private vegetarian dinners, and building vegan kitchens in yoga studios. She then opened her own organic, vegan, mostly raw restaurant in Hawai'i. Eventually she returned to Montreal and became lifelong friends and business partners with David Coté and Mathieu Gallant of Crudessence.

With Gallant she did pop-up dinners in Montreal and started winning vegan cooking competitions on behalf of the raw food restaurant. Her name officially made, she began getting invitations all over the world to do pop-up dinners, conferences, workshops, gastronomic retreats and raw food restaurant consulting.

stephanie-audet-mango-avocado-tacoMango taco with guacamole and sprout salad, chia vinaigrette and raw croutons from a pop-up dinner in Brazil

After a long spell as a raw foodist she eventually stopped being 100% raw. So she steams a little nettle every now and then - stop judging her...

At the end of spring and beginning of fall she does cooking classes in Montreal. But in the summer she dives into the growing world of pop-ups - "one night only" dinners.

Funny story about meeting David Coté and Mathieu Gallant of Crudessence

"I used to go to college with a girl that met David, and we were the two vegan girls from the college so we kept each others' phone numbers - we were the only "granolas" going to College Montmorency in Laval. She was like, "This guy!" [about David] and then I was already thinking about coming here for pottery so then I start emailing him and Mathieu and they were like, "Wow a raw food chef from Hawaii! The first day in Montreal I arrived at the [Crudessence] loft and we hugged and all the staff they were like, "How long have you known each other?" And we're like, "15 minutes." We're best friends and that's going to be for life for sure."

On Farmers Market and Montreal Restaurants

"I'm not that excited about Montreal restaurants. I always eat at my house. I like going to Pola's [for groceries]. That's Epicerie Mile-End on Parc. He's a good friend. We used to order there when I was a chef at Crudessence. It's fun. It's mostly organic as well. I go to Segal (on St-Laurent) sometimes to get special stuff. But I mostly go to the farmers market close by twice a week at Parc Lahaie. This year there are new people. There's a sprout guy. I need to have something close to the house. Because I like to go to Marche Jean-Talon, but then I'm biking there and when I'm in a grocery store I want to buy everything. It's a big problem. I call it my disease.

It's contagious.

It's such a challenge because I go to the store and I have just a small backpack and I need to make it fit. I'm babysitting a bike right now and it's a very low bike. And there's no basket or anything. I need to think about having a milk crate.

Agreed. At least you don't drop blueberries down the J-T metro stairs
stephanie-audet-mini-quicheMini quiche with mushrooms and spinach from Brazilian pop-up

If you could cook for one person, who would it be?

Myself? [Laughs] It'd have to be, because I can't rely on restaurants. I have like lots of food allergies, basically - gluten and lactose. And now these days the restaurant people put anything in the sauces - they put like gluten powder in everything, or preservatives.

Do you want to convince any big name chefs that vegetarian gastronomy is not an oxymoron?

Those chefs are kind of open. I've started to work with classical chefs and I've been like, "They're going to judge me. I didn't go to school like them." But I'm a chef in a different kind of cuisine and I'm starting to get along with them.

What's your Secret to Gluten-free Waffles?

Puffed millet ground into a powder. I feel it was lighter, easier to digest, and I could eat like one and a half, a little bit more than usually. So it's a blend of brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and puffed millet flour and then flax seeds bloomed with hot water, so it replaced the eggs. And then milk with a little apple cider vinegar and then a little sugar and vanilla, and it was good. I made an apple jam with strawberries and rhubarb.

Favourite food?

I think compotes. I'm really into bases of apple or other fruits. Even when I travel I'll cook like pineapple with tropical fruit and spices. Apple sauce - it's something I was buying before and I was eating daily and then I understood it was so easy to make and then you can throw cardamom or star anise, or apricot, or this other thing and make it really good.

Can Midnight Poutine team up with you for your next event?

Yes! That would be fun.

Sweet. What's coming up in Montreal?

I'm going to do two events. One is the Fixe Cafe Bistro on St-Hubert. The chef worked at Decca77 before and other big restaurants and it's like "Cormier meets Audet." I'm going to impose an ingredient on him, like chia, which he's never used. And we're going to do it all vegan gluten-free. So it's going to be nice because we're going to teach each other. The other one I'm doing is at Damas. It's Syrian cuisine and they want to do a vegan brunch. And I'm like, "Are you guys out of your mind? I'm so happy!" There will be some gluten, some pita because it will be typical Syrian but he's going to send me a list of recipes - some have ghee, some have yogurt, and I'm going to make a vegan alternative and we'll make a big brunch. It'll be fun.

When's this vegan fun happening?

Mid-August. I'm going to put the dates on my website. One day I really look forward to having someone helping me with my website, but I can't hire someone yet.

Anyone looking for an unpaid job making a gorgeous food website?

Yeah, or for food or something. This summer, since I arrived I'm like, "Who wants to do this or that?" I'm having a hard time asking people to help me for free. I guess it's the way I'm raised. Even trade I feel uncomfortable. I'm like, "Oh my God, you worked for me and I'm just going to gift you?"

It'd be totally worth it for some of your lucuma caramel. Throw in a ball of white chocolate mousse with wild pears and some macerated strawberries, or a piece of lavender-blueberry hemp tart and you've got yourself a more than fair trade...

Stephanie-Audet white chocolate mousse and lucuma caramelRaw white chocolate mousse with maple and pear, lucuma caramel, strawberry compote, dehydrated pears in almond milk, sprouts

Photo credits: Photos of Audet and white chocolate mousse - Amie Watson; Brazilian pop-up photos - Arjuna Alcone Cordaro. Top photo food is (clockwise from top right) carambola sorbet with lime and wasabi, cold soup with cucumber, avocado, fennel and zaatar "yogurt", and sprout salad with chia vinaigrette and raw croutons


Discussion

1 Comment

Jade / July 19, 2013 at 07:45 pm
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Always AWESOME to see new things that have vegan versions...makes being vegan so much easier!
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