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Food

Wholesale Nightmare: Aubut Distribution Alimentaire

Posted by Amie / April 5, 2010

Aubut Distribution AlimentaireAubut Distribution Alimentaire
3975 rue Saint-Ambroise

This place makes me uneasy.

Nestled just a short walk behind the Atwater Market, walking up to this building really starts to feel like you're on the wrong side of the tracks. Wait, you are. Like you're in a horror movie and you know you shouldn't be wandering away from the group, or that girl's head shouldn't be rotating more than 180 degrees, or that nobody should really be buying anything in this store.

It's actually my neighbourhood, so I have nothing against the area itself, but the store freaks me out. This food wholesaler is not really a horror movie, but films like "Food, Inc." certainly make it feel about the same. Aubut Distribution Alimentaire is really a big warehouse, open to the public, but mostly serving restaurants, caterers and other food service industry people. They drive up to place orders and have them loaded into their car, or walk on in, grab an enormous cart and wind through the factory-style grocery store. Full service or self-service, for convenience. The scary part is that tons of companies and individuals in the city actually buy from this place and we, the unknowing consumer, are only a few degrees of separation away from the purchase.
Not a King's ChickenFor the most part things come in bulk, like the huge containers of pickled peppers you see at shawarma places. Huge bottles of salad dressings and soup bases line the walls. Think that restaurant with the $3.00 vegetable soup appetizer is a good deal? Maybe not so much. There a more than a few non-soup ingredients in these. Think your warm dinner roll was made fresh in the restaurant kitchen? Nope. "Freshly baked" does not mean "home-made". The roll could have even been partially baked before it was frozen and packed into a box. That way the restaurant has even less work to do to warm it up and get it into your table's bread basket or onto your cafeteria-style tray. Chicken a la King? Not so royal...
Parbaked Wheat RollThat's what Aubut is - relatively affordable convenience. There aren't sales, really. Things might be priced slightly lower than retail, and when you buy in bulk that may make a difference for a restaurant, but the box of cereal you can buy here may not even be less expensive than at Provigo. You need to pick your purchases carefully.
Duck FatI came here for duck fat to make duck confit. I needed a whole lot of it. Sure, I could get it at any butcher in the city, but it costs the same amount everywhere - $5.00 for 500mL (a small container). I'd heard that Aubut had imported duck fat from France (not fresh like at the city's butchers), that this fat came from the "correct" duck for duck confit, so would give a better result, and cost significantly less. How? Who knows, but I could save myself a small fortune (about $10) by buying it there. As it's my neighbourhood, I walked on down. I did find the duck fat, and it was cheaper than the market, but I wasn't expecting the rest of the frozen meat section to be so distressing. If there's a television-sized box of chicken breasts in the freezer, then in some factory somewhere the rest of those chickens were divided into more boxes, some for people food and some not for people food. That makes a whole lot of chickens.
Modified MarsalaThere is actually a section of the store that sells only specialty products. A small selection of organics, honeys, mustards, paté, cutely wrapped up in Grandma-style packaging (at full price, of course), but you turn around from this short shelf to containers upon containers of "Alfredo" powder, or "Modified Cognac". Cheese and cream are not naturally powders, and cognac...well, the only things added to the "modified cognac" are salt, pepper and sulfites. That's not a lot, so why not use the real thing? Yeah it's more expensive, but you'd think a restaurant that would use cognac in a sauce (this is not drinking cognac) would have enough self-respect to use something decent, or at least could add their own salt and pepper. They probably wouldn't think to add sulfites to it. Generally, when I cook with cognac I don't think, "Hey, I bet this would taste better with sulfites." I'm also thinking the powders get bought a whole lot more often than the small-production, local patés and jellies. There are other, less home-made patés in the refridgerated areas, however, that have a crazy amount of preservatives and things that have nothing to do with liver (but lots to do with fat and preservation), and therefore cost a whole lot less.

There is an area with fresh produce ("fresh" being open to interpretation...) where you can get enormous blocks of cheese, over-sized vegetables, and nothing organic. Much more money is being made through imports of frozen fish and meat at good to average prices, but that blue marlin is endangered, and the duck legs were pulled from an overfed, extremely reluctant duck.

So the store gives me the creeps. Like walking into a place where food goes to die. To think that all these enormous packages of processed junk end up in stomachs, and the owners of those stomachs pay for the privilege! On the one hand, this is a magical store; it forms the beginning of delicious recipes at many of the city's respected establishments who pick and choose their products carefully from among the more respectable options. On the other hand, I never want to eat anything pickled that comes in a jar or can or plastic container that big again. Ever.

This place is the best justification for the entire local food movement. Aubut Distribution Alimentaire should go the way of the blue marlin. See how it feels to be bullied.

Distribution Alimentaire Aubut

Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-6pm, Sat 7am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm
514-933-0939

Discussion

27 Comments

Vic Tucker / April 7, 2010 at 04:16 pm
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Good job Amie. Always glad to read your articles.
kimberleyblue / April 16, 2010 at 12:49 am
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it is a bit scary to walk in there and see all the things you may be getting at certain restos...bottled salsas, salad dressings, and chicken breasts by the box...if we're going to be paying a chef to cook our meals, it shouldn't come from a jar!

but on the other hand, this place is great for the average consumer. why pay grocery-store prices for a small can of chickpeas? or a jar of pickles, or bottle of ketchup? this place is great if you're cooking for yourself and need to stock your kitchen with the basics, at wholesale prices.
Elizabeth / May 15, 2010 at 07:08 pm
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I know you wrote this a while ago but I wanted to let you know that modified alcohols are very important in the restaurant industry. Cooks tend to take a 'few' sips of the alcohol they're cooking with so by adding things that will make it disgusting to drink the restaurant quickly saves money. Don't forget that this store is mostly for restaurants.
Amie replying to a comment from Elizabeth / May 15, 2010 at 08:50 pm
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That's a good, and sad, point.
saab / May 17, 2010 at 10:24 am
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hey hey hey!!!!
I like this place, versus paying membership fees out of my hard earned money to big stores, that have people shopping like 'doom's' day 'was tomorrow. This is not a 'shopping is my fav. pastime/I like to gorge myself with food samples' kinda store. You go in/go out.

This place helps me create and visualize, while I concoct recipes, as I walk around- me the semi purist foodie. Unlike the boisterous and bright huge one room stores where zombies wander, filling carts with most that they not need.!!!
saab / May 17, 2010 at 10:24 am
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hey hey hey!!!!
I like this place, versus paying membership fees out of my hard earned money to big stores, that have people shopping like 'doom's' day 'was tomorrow. This is not a 'shopping is my fav. pastime/I like to gorge myself with food samples' kinda store. You go in/go out.

This place helps me create and visualize, while I concoct recipes, as I walk around- me the semi purist foodie. Unlike the boisterous and bright huge one room stores where zombies wander, filling carts with most that they not need.!!!
l.caron / March 23, 2012 at 06:18 am
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What planet is this guy from, Aubut is a food distributor to the restaurant business open to the public at great hours and prices.
This guy should stick to the Atwater market if he's looking for specific products, although most goods are imported out of season.
Tailor / June 19, 2012 at 01:09 pm
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I'll admit, being confronted with the non-consumer side of the food industry is terrifying, but the only thing different from this and consumer level sales is marketing and packaging, things I can do without. That being said, I'm still going to stick to the farmers market as much as possible. Truth be told, I only buy soda here because it's half the cost then getting cans at the dep.
Hortense / January 22, 2014 at 06:50 pm
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“Wholesale Nightmare: Aubut Distribution Alimentaire” was a relatively pleasant blog post, .
Continue composing and I am going to keep on reading through!
Thanks a lot -Carma
marie / November 27, 2014 at 11:47 am
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wow, what a way to do business this place.
I called to get a price for white vinegar that i would like to buy in large quantities all year long for a huge aquatic complex to decalcify and the guy would not give me a price on the phone even if i told him it was an hour away drive
He had the quantities of each product in his computer but not the prices....? and didnt want to get off his ass and go see the price on the selves. way to go champion!
François / December 10, 2014 at 01:45 pm
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Wow, that is scary. Aubut is pretty famous though in Montreal, which is weird.
I am going to stay from this place from now on.
Tom / January 2, 2015 at 01:34 am
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A feeling? You get a "feeling" of being in a horror movie or on the wrong side of the tracks- and that tells us what?
This article was nonsense and we're all dumber for having read it.
Rinrin / February 4, 2015 at 08:36 am
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move to canada!!!!!!!! its the best cotrnuy EVER, ive never been to montreal personally, but i bet you could get LOTS of job oppurtunities there. try toronto too maybe lol
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c.Lma / March 6, 2016 at 06:05 am
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Too bad you felt uneasy in that section of Montreal. These building were all factories back in the days. So understandably that you don't have the warm feeling!!! But I assure you that it's not hunted you wouldn't get attacked and you were safe regardless your perception.. that's not the worst place. From reading your post it didn't stop you from walking in the store for your needs or curiosity!
happy hump day / March 31, 2016 at 10:22 pm
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StormyBLorch / June 5, 2016 at 04:59 pm
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Hi there, I enjoy reading most of your article post.
I wanted to create a little comment to back up you.
Rudy / August 12, 2016 at 03:42 am
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When I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is
added I receive four emails with the exact same comment.
Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from that service?
Thanks a lot!
denise o / September 14, 2016 at 08:50 pm
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Hello I Have A fundamental issue with the premise of this Article. Let Me Get This straight So you went to Aubut found what you were looking for At a great price, but yet you're complaining and advocating for the Demise of this company That Employ Dozens of people. After reading This Article a couple of times it sounded like a baseless rant from someone who forgot to take their meds.
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