I was in Chapters a few weeks ago, right before Christmas and I came across a new cookbook I hadn’t seen before. It’s called “The Art of Living According to Joe Beef”. I recognized the name but couldn’t put my finger on it until I read the foreword.
Written by David Chang of the Momofuku Empire, it immediately triggered. In an old GQ interview I read, I vaguely remember he mentions that his favorite restaurant in the world is Joe Beef in Montreal. As I read on, he described his first visit to the restaurant. Apparently, on this particular trip to Montreal, he was dining at Martin Picard’s Au Pied de Cochon and everyone around him asked him if he had tried Joe Beef. He’d never heard of it and the next day he took a cab there and sat unassumingly at the bar. The bartender started the chit chat and somehow they got on the topic that Chang was in the food business too.
The bartender started asking questions, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” He even accused Chang of being a narc from another restaurant. Naturally this put Chang on the defensive, but the bartender, who was actually co-owner Dave MacMillan, turned out that he knew who Chang was all along. “I’m in New York every year, I go to your restaurant, I love it. You come in, try to sneak in and order food without even fucking telling us?” I guess that was the start of blossoming friendship.
What intrigued me about the cookbook was that it wasn’t only recipes but it included stories of the two owners’, Dave and Frederic Morin, and their experiences in Montreal, stories about where the name “Joe Beef” came from and about the food culture in the city. It was tough to put down because the photography was so eye catching as well. It reminded me a lot of Chang’s Momofuku cookbook. Same feel.
I’ve only been to Montreal once but I did have the chance to eat at Schwarze’s who the authors call out as one of the great places to eat. It seems that Montreal is THE place to eat in Canada. Au Pied de Cochon and Chuck Hughes’ Garde Manger have gotten lots of airtime on TV, but think of the numerous other joints that you will never hear of unless you go there. I guess I’ll just have to add this one to the list.