By Waheeda Harris
Born in France’s Alsace region, Chef Daniel Tobien has gastronomy in his genes. From his mother, he acquired a profound loyalty to local products and from his father, a native of the Burgundy region, he learned his appreciation of good wines and a natural way with people—all which he believes are essential ingredients for making a true chef de cuisine.
After studies at the Lycée Hotelier de Guebwiller, he worked in several renowned restaurants in France. In 1988 he relocated to the U.S. and worked in New York and Florida, and more 10 years ago Tobien moved to Montréal to become executive chef at Le Persil Fou. The opportunity to work closely with local producers and living in the heart of nature presented itself and in 2006, Chef Tobien became executive chef at Fairmont Le Château Montebello, and more recently moved to Fairmont Tremblant, in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains.
What specialty dishes or local items do you recommend to visitors?
Quebec’s gastronomy has really changed over the last 10 years. I am always delighted to find new artisanal cheese makers or bakers. On the menu at our Windigo Restaurant, we offer Quebec pork fillet with blueberries and cream cheese and local trout fillet with maple, orange and grilled almonds.
Do you have a favourite ingredient or style of cooking that you will always do as a chef?
In Alsace, you could get an unusual type of meat sanglichon or, loosely translated, “wild boar pig” that was very tasty. In Tremblant, I have a great organic meat supplier, La Ferme Morgan in Arundel, which offers sanglichon, which I love to barbecue.
What item on the menu is a favourite with guests?
On the weekend, the surf & turf buffet is very popular, with a wide selection of dishes including sushi, lobster and several cuts of prime meat. Two favourite dishes are Dijon and sea salt prime rib as well as scallops and shrimp flambéed in sambuca.
What’s your favourite place for a meal under $10 in Mont-Tremblant?
The hotel’s Nansen Lounge has panoramic windows with view of the mountain and the lake. It even has ski-in access. Our après-ski menu includes a variety of Alsatian tarts (8$ to 10$) and local beers such as P’tit Train du Nord.
Favourite restaurant in Tremblant (other than your own)?
I recommend Le Grill Saint-Georges. It’s a great place to relax, enjoy drinks or a good meal in a casual setting. Their beef tartare gets my vote.
What do you love to eat that is simple to make?
Many people are hesitant to cook fish or simply do not know how to prepare it but it is simple and takes no time at all. What is important is to get a nice fillet, preferably the catch of the day or freshest fish you can get.
Is there a food style or trend that you would be happy to see disappear?
What gets to me is processed foods. I see them getting more and more popular in supermarkets and that irritates me. I think it is really important to understand that what we eat shapes us and we need fresh, healthy food. We must take the time to teach our kids to cook, show them how easy it is to make a simple soup or roasted chicken, rather than buying processed food. Grocery stores tend to feature low quality products at low prices that come from halfway around the world while our local producers are forced to sell at higher prices.
What culinary trend are you happy to see has become popular?
I think it’s great more guests are well-traveled and have a genuine interest in local cuisine and sustainability. The Slow Food movement and the 100-mile diet have raised awareness. We have changed our menus towards healthier cuisine, leaner cuts and lighter sauces. Now we are working towards broadening horizons, introducing organic, macrobiotic, raw and vegan options.
What’s your ideal thing to do on a day off from the restaurant?
I love to go fly fishing for brown or speckled trout in the Rivière la Diable. It is peaceful and challenging—you just focus on casting your line and enjoying nature. No noise, no stress. Then I head back home with my catch to enjoy a nice meal with my family.