Cookbook | Arnaud Marchand: democratizing the boreal terroir

The worlds of hospitality and gastronomic agriculture are full of stories, reflections and solutions. Once a month, we give the floor to those who are part of the richness and diversity of Quebec’s food trade.

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Iris Gagnon Paradise

Iris Gagnon Paradise
The press

(Quebec) At the helm of Chez Boulay – boreal bistro since it opened on 1er In May 2012, Chef Arnaud Marchand focuses on presenting our boreal terroir. Ambassador for Aliments du Québec on the menu, the native Frenchman has given himself the mission to democratize the products of our territory while rethinking the restaurant model in a healthy way.

First service

“I come from the middle of France, a small village of 400 inhabitants called Chalmazel. I grew up in an agricultural but also in a working environment. We had our garden, our chickens, our rabbits. My father hunted, he made his own meats. We made our terrines, our beans, we picked, we peeled! I grew up in this love for food where there was also this concern for economy. †

“I loved cooking with my mother, but until I was 14-15 I had no idea how to go into the kitchen. Then I went to a four-year course, but I did internships that I didn’t like very much. I didn’t have a hook until my very last internship. It was a Logis de France hotel, a two-star hotel where everything was homemade. It was the whiplash! My first sacred fire, the first sensation in the kitchen. †

Then I continued to work in the summer. I was in the pantry. One day, I will remember it all my life, the chef made me come over for a hot lunch with him. The hall was full, we train, we train, I knew exactly what to do, I loved it. That’s what it takes in the kitchen: someone who gives us that desire. This chef ultimately changed the course of my life.

Arnaud Marchand, chef and co-owner of Chez Boulay — boreal bistro

“I then spent a winter working in Les Airelles, in Courchevel, in the Alps, a luxurious hotel with very high standards serving very traditional Bocuse-style dishes. All the mastery behind a background, a juice… I learned a lot. I worked with the best products in the world while learning the basics. I did seven seasons there and ended up as a sous chef with 30 chefs under me.


Originally from France, Arnaud Marchand was trained in fine dining in his country.

“In these types of establishments, the relationship was not necessarily with the local product, but with fine products, exceptional products. We worked with smoked salmon from Russia, the most popular and expensive in the world, we got products from the Mediterranean directly from fishermen who traveled five hours to bring them to us, the shrimps were still moving!

“At Airelles I met my wife Sophie, a native of Quebec. I applied for a working holiday permit and came to Quebec, I worked at L’Initiale with Yvan Lebrun. Then we got married and went back to France for three years. I had some great offers, great job opportunities in Michelin star places. I had two options: write an exceptional resume with a life devoted to work, work, work, or settle in Quebec, where I saw more freedom to continue in the profession while having a family life. † †

second shift


Chez Boulay recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

“I arrived at Château Bonne Entente with Marie-Chantal Lepage. I stayed for a year, when just the first season of the show The chiefs! was starting. At first I didn’t want to go into this, but in the end I was convinced and I was selected to join the brigade. It was a great human adventure, I loved the experience, the danger.

I then met Jean-Luc Boulay and some time later he asked me to open the bistro with him. I declined three times! But he didn’t let go. I never wanted to be a boss, but in the end I said to myself: why not? And so we launched Chez Boulay, 10 years ago, with the desire to thank this province that welcomed us both.

Arnaud Marchand, chef and co-owner of Chez Boulay — boreal bistro

“Initially I had never tasted a boreal spice! I started from scratch. At the time, Le Boulay was a true laboratory for continuous research and development: the boreal herbs of Fabien Girard, a forerunner with whom we started working together, local vinegar and verjuice to increase the acidity other than with citrus fruits, lemon, how to replace olive oil with sunflower -, camelina, cranberry seed oil… We’ve tried everything.

“Exceptional discoveries have been made, such as grilled rapeseed oil from the Coop du Cap, in the Gaspé, links we forged like the one with Léandre [Saindon], who had just started growing sea buckthorn in Saint-Ferréol, at a time when this fruit was not yet known. We discovered products such as milkweed, cattail heart, daisy buds with Gourmet Sauvage and Ariane [Paré-Le Gal] who have popularized this aspect a lot.

“All this in a kitchen that resembles me, with my stocks, my sauces, all the techniques I learned during my years in France. The balance of the dishes, the flavors, the textures, that’s what interests me. We are a bistro in Old Quebec, we had to adapt to our clientele. †


Arnaud Marchand in his restaurant located at 1110, rue Saint-Jean, in Quebec

For me, a restaurant is a place of education. So what we had to find was how to make boreal popular, get people interested in what’s growing here, but integrated into something that recognizes it, like a bayberry veal blanquette. As I like to say: a reassuring kitchen that gives you a boreal blow.

Arnaud Marchand, chef and co-owner of Chez Boulay — boreal bistro

“To be a drill is to use products that grow in Canada. That doesn’t mean I’ll always have Quebec products. We started with 60% local products, then we evolved to 70%, 80%, 90%. We see 100% local restaurants in Quebec, and all the better for it. We’re not there yet, there are some challenges with the volume we’re doing; but thanks to this volume we are an important support for local producers. †

third service


Rethinking catering is also a priority for the chef.

“I have a very special bond with Jean-Luc. In 10 years we never held. We like to tease and challenge each other. From the beginning, we had a success that has not been denied. At one point I thought it was too much and we reduced the capacity of the restaurant by 20% to 30%. To regain the pleasure of cooking, spend time with customers, slow down the service. Going for growth at all costs, I’m far from that. Me, I want to manage a decline, and I think it can be very brilliant, that it is very good.

“Over time, the evening chef, Guillaume Caron, who started here 10 years ago as a clerk, the daytime chef, Olivier Langlois, who has been working here for five years, and Patrice Auclair, catering director, have become partners. For me it was essential in the evolution of a restaurant that the people who signed up, who gave themselves, got that reward.

“Just before the pandemic, we opened Les Botanistes and then Comptoir Boréal, a laboratory where people can taste our pastries. The pandemic has brought us a lot. We started from scratch, we laid all the foundations anew. It was an opportunity to ask ourselves: what do we want for the rest?


Democratizing the local and the boreal: the heart of Chez Boulay’s mission.

“We’ve found ways to push the producers forward, we’ve structured things better for our employees, with 40-hour schedules and 4 days a week for everyone. I work a lot on the revaluation of the profession of cook, restaurateur. It is very important and it goes through us first, to give quality work, in a healthy environment.

“We’ve created a platform, for the family, with great content, stories from producers, customers, employees, things that we want to share. We have seen an extraordinary solidarity with the pandemic from people who wanted to encourage producers. We try to strengthen these ties between customers, employees and producers.

“As this war takes place, we see food autonomy, and of countries in general, taking on a new meaning. Do we have to eat so many products that come from other countries, where sea transport costs a fortune? There is also the issue of the accessibility of Quebec maritime products, which is an essential issue. To break this system, it’s installed and pinned there and it doesn’t have to be anymore. It’s all about sharing the wealth of the terroir of a region we are losing. †

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