Characterized by a long history of innovation, style, and creativity, Montreal is home to an incredibly diverse culinary scene. Shaping this city’s cuisine is a vast number of highly talented chefs who continuously bring flavour and originality to the table. Over the past few years, rising chef Adam Zaitouni has been in full creative mode, taking over the city’s food scene one restaurant at a time.
We wanted to meet the man behind some of Montreal’s most popular menus, so we caught up with Adam at Henri Saint-Henri to discuss life, career plans and some of his experiences as a chef in and around the city.
What sparked your passion for cooking?
I began working in restaurants part-time back when I was in high school and I instantly fell in love with the restaurant business, mainly with its creative aspect.
When and where did you complete your culinary training?
I graduated from St. Pius Culinary and Business Centre, but I’ve also traveled a lot. I completed several internships in New York, Chicago, France, and Spain. I loved New York; it’s my second favorite city behind Montreal, of course. I’d say I gathered much of my culinary experience throughout my travels; they’ve definitely influenced my style of cooking.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I like to use a little bit of everything, but I especially love to cook with local, seasonal products. They’re perfect for creating fresh and modern dishes.
What is your current specialty?
I don’t really have a specialty. When I’m in the kitchen, I just let my creativity flow and I cook with the ingredients that I have at hand.
What are your favourite ingredients?
Anything fresh, but I especially love to use scallops, chickpeas, fava beans, and vegetables like horseradish and asparagus.
We’re going to put you on the spot, Adam. Your family just called and they’re coming over in 30 minutes. You need to whip up something delicious as fast as possible. What dish would you put together?
I think I’d put together a pasta dish using whatever vegetables I have in the fridge, fresh tomatoes, and Parmesan.
You’ve created menus for several Montreal hotspots, such as Les Enfants Terribles, Viccolo, Grinder, Commerce, and most recently Henri Saint-Henri. Describe how you go about creating a menu for a restaurant.
I mainly focus on the restaurant’s style, their goal, and of course the type of food they want to offer. I definitely prefer creating a smaller menu so that all ingredients can be as fresh as possible; local ingredients are also a must. I like to keep things simple and fresh in any case.
What are your future plans as a chef? Would you like to eventually open your own restaurant? If so, what type of cuisine would you specialize in?
I would definitely love to open a small neighborhood restaurant here in Montreal. I’d keep the menu simple and personal, largely influenced by North American cuisine. It would be the kind of restaurant where everyone leaves happy.
Photos courtesy of Adam Zaitouni, Commerce, Vicolo, and Henri Saint-Henri.