this chef explains why working locally is all about keeping it fresh

Chef Normand Laprise shines the spotlight on local fare.


“For me, to work locally is first and foremost about freshness… ”
— Normand Laprise


Chef Normand Laprise is a champion of local Quebec gastronomy. As a child growing up in Kamouraska, Quebec, he didn’t understand why everything from fish to green beans had to come from France. “I realized we weren’t using the food we grow here. It was weird.”

When Laprise went to culinary school in Quebec City 37 years ago, chefs didn’t focus on local food. At his restaurants Toqué! and Brasserie T!, his menus honour Quebec produce: he orders lamb from Rimouski; Jean-Pierre Claver’s farm provides chicken for his vol-au-vent; and mushrooms are bought from Les Jardins Sauvages at Jean-Talon Market.

Laprise was recently nominated as a member of the Order of Canada, but he’s racked up a clutch of other auspicious honours, including being named Chef of the Year by Maclean’s Magazine, a Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef, as well as being a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author. 

After serving apprenticeships in Europe and Asia, Laprise learned the value of mentoring, and serves as a jury member of Vancouver’s Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship.

Backwards BLT 

Ingredients (serves 4): 

12 thin slices of pancetta (not rolled)
4 medium tomatoes
4 tbsp chardonnay vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
Maldon salt and pepper
4 tbsp shallots, minced
250 ml (1 cup) mayonnaise
12 basil leaves
12 lettuce leaves
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
4 tbsp fried bread


Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Place the pancetta slices between two sheets of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes until golden and crunchy. Set aside.

With a small knife, score an X on the underside of the tomatoes and blanch them in boiling water for 15 seconds. Before peeling, cool the tomatoes in a bowl of ice water. Set aside on paper towels. Remove the heart of each tomato with an apple corer, and then slice each fruit horizontally into three equal slices. Keep the slices of each tomato so that they can be easily restacked later.

Finishing touches

Place the tomato slices on a baking tray in such a way that each tomato can be easily reconstructed later. Drizzle a little vinegar and olive oil on each slice (except the topmost), adding Maldon salt, pepper, shallots, mayonnaise, a basil leaf, a lettuce leaf, chives, Parmesan cheese and fried bread.

Finally, place a slice of pancetta on each tomato slice. Stack the slices one on top of the other to re-form a full tomato. Add a bit of mayonnaise in the hole made by the apple-corer. Sprinkle with olive oil and season with Maldon salt.