At his Quebec City restaurant Laurie Raphaël named after his two children (he has another restaurant of the same name in Montréal) Daniel Vézina assumes various roles – chef; owner; teacher.
For a chef who has achieved star status in Québec, with cooking shows, books and restaurants, I expect that Vézina had long ago left the kitchen. As I wait to speak with him, I peer through a small window in the dining room that looks onto the kitchen and see him working. “Being a chef means being at ease in the kitchen, going shopping, wandering the markets, knowing how to handle a knife – all of it,” explains Vézina when we meet. He is a guy’s guy, with what I can only describe as a deeply masculine personality. He is without airs or pretense noting that people come up to him in the street and pat him on the back greeting him with a friendly hello. “If I’ve done anything in Québec it has been making great cooking accessible to everyone. I’ve taught people that fine dining is also taking a carrot from the garden, and cooking it to perfection with a little bit of butter,” says Vézina noting that television has given him the forum to teach.
Vézina’s rigour in the kitchen stems from a difficult childhood where he saw cooking as a way out. “I was a real gourmand as a kid. Even when I was very little I would tell my Mom what improvements to make on her cooking – more salt, more pepper, whatever I thought it needed. One day I went to see a school counselor. ‘Chef’ was one of the professions on the list. My mother had always said I should be a chef so when I went into cooking it was love at first sight.”
This is an excerpt of an original article. For more about Daniel Vezina see the Fall 2009 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.