Sapin Bistro and Restaurant Respect
Respect emerges as a cardinal virtue for Patrick Plouffe, chef and owner of Sapin, bistro du lac, formerly known as The Star Café. Respect for employees, customers and agricultural products as well.
We were supposed to meet at 1:00 p.m., but the dinner rush wasn’t over yet on this beautiful sunny day. “A chicken burger and fish and chips for table 4!” Patrick calls out to the waitress as she rushes out onto the crowded terrace on Lakeside Street in downtown Knowlton.
In the kitchen, the 42-year-old father of three is busy, sweating, but isn’t becoming impatient. The tension is palpable, but the chef has seen worse. “It’s easy to be a good chef,” says the man who has worked in many restaurants in France, Spain, and in the Montréal area, at Le Quartier Général, L’INcrédule, Chez L’Épicier, and at the Quilliams and Knowlton Golf Club. “It’s another thing to be a good employer, a good restaurateur, a good entrepreneur!” Especially during a pandemic, we might add, since the bistro opened its doors on November 1, 2020, just 10 days before the region fell into the red zone! “Every employee here contributes to building the identity of the bistro,” says Patrick Plouffe, who has been around the restaurant business long enough to appreciate the value of a good brigade.
Sapin can be described as offering a village cuisine, steeped in simplicity and fuelled by local ingredients. Moreover, it is when he talks about his suppliers that the Granby native becomes excited. “My philosophy is to highlight the work of our farmers, nothing more,” he humbly states, downplaying his work, not to lower expectations, but to reiterate that everything starts with the products’ freshness and quality.
“In my dishes, I want the tourists to discover the region through the products, and for the locals to recognize them,” he says. Therefore, white tablecloths and cerebral cooking are out of the question. Although the flavours are complex, they must remain accessible and appeal to Léon, Chloé or Adèle, Patrick’s children under 100 centimetres tall. The bar is set quite high! For example, the chef likes to use fir trees in the sauces or ice cream, to remind us of our “boreality”. Is there anything more comforting for the locals than a bouquet of fir trees reminiscent of the holidays, or more exotic for tourists than our forest fragrances?
Patrick’s next projects for his Sapin endeavour are numerous. Will it be pottery tableware made in the region? Mismatched tables and chairs to create multiple ambiance zones in the stone and raw wood building next to the bridge? A logo on the menu to highlight the turbo-local dishes that Sapin offers on its menu, thanks to exceptional producers such as Ferme Badger (Highland beef, West Bolton), Ferme Maui (Dorper lamb, Town of Brome Lake) or the Potagers des nues mains (organic vegetables, in Sutton)? It’s hard to say.
Meanwhile, Patrick goes back to … slicing his onions!