Normand Laprise is one of Quebec’s most renowned chefs, famous for refined, sumptuous French food.
So it’s surprising to see him tossing fries at a food court, but that’s exactly where he was found Thursday at lunch time, behind the counter of his new food stall downtown, Burger T!
“For me, it’s very nice to make our food accessible to everybody, to all people, and I believe Montreal is ready for that,” Laprise said.
Laprise’s burger bar is just one of 16 restaurants opening up in the new, 40,000 square foot Time Out Market, on the second floor of the Eaton Centre downtown. The food and cultural market is the latest offering from the Global Time Out group, which has markets already open in the United States and Europe.
“We call it the democratization of food, of fine dining being accessible to everyone,” said Time Out CEO Didier Souillat. “Most of those restaurants are super busy, you can’t try without having reservations several weeks before.
“You can come here and taste the best dishes in Montreal.”
The owners insist it’s not your average food court, preferring to call it a market. Food is only served on china, drinks in real glassware. Some of the other restaurants include Montreal Plaza Deli, Le Club Chasse et Peche, Moleskine and Olive et Gourmando.
There are also several bars — with mixologists shaking up hand-crafted cocktails. There is culinary school on the site, as well as a retail store selling local goods.
The menu and prices are varied, with everything from muffins on offer at Olive and Gourmando, to fusilli with nordic shrimp and pistachio pesto.
Unlike high-end hotels like The Ritz and the Four Seasons opting for their flagship restaurants to be be helmed by chefs not from Montreal, all the chefs running the stalls are local, something food writer Lesley Chesterman has applauded.
“What’s amazing about the concept, is it actually is a concept that comes from elsewhere, but it focuses on our talent, and it really is an A group of chefs in this fancy food court,” Chesterman said. “How great they are using Montreal chefs.”
One of the challenges facing the Time Out Market is its location, in the Eaton Centre right downtown. Ste. Catherine Street has been undergoing a multi-year reconstruction, and many buildings in the area are also under renovation. It’s made for a difficult consumer environment.
“The challenge is no one wants to go downtown anymore,” Chesterman said. “If you are a hip, happening person, you want to go Griffintown…the further away from downtown you can get the better.”
The chefs are aware the location isn’t easy. But they are hopeful.
“I give you two or three years, and I am pretty sure downtown will come back like it was before because a big city needs a big downtown,” Laprise said.