Meet one of the most prominent chefs in Canada right now. Interview with Marc-Olivier Frappier.
One of Montréal’s - if not Canada’s most prominent chef, Marc-Olivier Frappier greets us in one of his latest restaurant concept, Mon Lapin, early one morning. This cozy and welcoming wine bar, which is located in La Petit-Patrie (Little Italy), is Marc-Olivier’s third venture and opened in the spring of 2018. Sipping on a coffee, he tells us his take on inspiration, individuality, ambience and everything else that goes into creating a culinary experience.
Tell us about your background - where did it all start?
My background lies within the art of cooking. I started forming the interest by the age of 15 at a well-known Canadian food chain. However, my training truly started when I attended culinary school, here in my home province of Quebec, and later on in Italy as well.
Italy? That must have been an up-and-coming chef’s dream.
Yeah, it allowed me to stay and work in Italy for a while, which gave me the opportunity to work all over Europe, including France and England. During this time, I kept learning new things and experiencing the tastes of different cultures - constantly adding on to my own set of skills.
So, you were a guru when you returned?
Far from! As I got back to Montréal, I started working with one of Canada’s top restaurants, Joe Beef, where I stayed for 10 years and where I still maintain a significant role. Throughout that time, I made some amazing friends and they encouraged me to continue to develop my own concepts.
We are at one of those creations right now, Mon Lapin. What led up to the creation of this place?
My wife and I wanted to create a space in our home neighbourhood, La Petit-Patrie (Little Italy). We have lived here for years and truly feel connected, like we belong to this area. The challenge is always intriguing - I mean, opening a non-Italian restaurant in an Italian neighbourhood, we felt, was a great opportunity. My wife works with importing wines, so she put together a nice wine-list and I developed the menu, we found a vacant location and went for it.
So, the idea was there. Where did you find the inspiration to actually realise Mon Lapin?
Honestly, I rarely sit down and brainstorm to figure everything out prior to execution. Instead, I focus on my personal experience, and the evolution of what I believe in. I saw changes that I wanted to make, and new things I wanted to include. More so, I always try to focus on how I can make the experience for people to come and eat fun. By listening to people and their personal stories, I shaped Mon Lapin to fit with the directions I heard.
What is important to you when it comes to creating a concept?
The vibe and how people feel when they visit is extremely important. It’s essential for my place to always be welcoming and warm. It’s more to it than just the interior design, the overall feeling of the place, the identity, has to be homey. Equally, it’s quality. I get my ingredients for all my places from the same local distributors and have done for years. Over time, this has developed into personal relationships, but also a trust that ensures the best products.
You mention identity. What does this mean to you and what role has it played in Mon Lapin?
Identity is what makes the place. To me, it’s my knowledge I carry from other projects, as well as new interactions, mixed with a true feeling of what I believe in. By mixing this into Mon Lapin I’ve tried to design a restaurant with an identity that shows no difference in going to mine on a Sunday for a meal or to come here. The people make the place, both visitors and us working here all contribute to this comfy and relaxed setting.
This is your third venture. What’s the unique thing about Mon Lapin?
If you think about it, everything is unique. There’s only one of everybody - one of you and one of me. Because of this, I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what’s special to Mon Lapin alone. I created Mon Lapin with the intention of making it the best place it possibly could be. To do so, I focused on the overall ambience - to make it into more of a kitchen party at a friend’s house than strictly a place to go eat.
Give us one pro-tip to become a better cook.
Easy - f*ck up and learn from your mistakes. Don’t be scared of trying new things, new techniques or ingredients. Explore more stuff and cook more. If it sucks, try again and do it better.