This is the mantra that drives Étienne Drapeau in his life, the quest for happiness. Étienne, of course, eats good food, but also a zest for life, a smile and a positive attitude. He doesn’t want to have to run after happiness. It attracts it, captures it, envelops itself in this positive philosophy, it is happiness. This way of living, of thinking, of breathing, Étienne transmits it in his book Make the choice of happiness. His communicative enthusiasm is good for the soul and, in this time of great turmoil, this is a perfect health medicine. As with his daily diet, he is careful, but does not cut off the pleasure of living. That must be the recipe for happiness.
Life must go on, so in the morning to start the day well, tea or coffee?
Definitely coffee. Coffee is my greatest writing and working companion, I don’t think I’ve ever written or composed a song without coffee! It’s one of the great joys in my life: every morning, I make myself my Nespresso latte with a lot of foam and maple sugar on top, it’s part of my routine and it’s my little dose of morning happiness. . When it’s not at home, the best coffee in the region is Brûlerie de la Rivière, in Terrebonne, where I wrote a lot of songs.
Do you make pancakes, eggs, smoothies…?
At home, I’m the breakfast king! I am the one making the lunches. I do a great job of making good omelets and I cook my traditional breakfasts with bacon and tofu sausage, it’s awesome. High protein, almost no fat. And I find it even better than real ones! I also bake small potatoes with spices. Lunches are more on the weekends. During the week, right after my morning workout, I always take a smoothie of protein fruits every morning, with maple syrup, Greek yogurt and vanilla. It gives me my energy for the day, without weighing me down and falling asleep.
Have you rediscovered the pleasure of cooking during this period of confinement?
Absolutely! We have never eaten so much! I love making tofu bacon or ham fettuccine Alfredo, with calorie-free sauce and light cheese. I use the Walden’s Farm line of products (sauce, vinaigrette and mayo) which are awesome. Imagine a succulent Alfredo sauce with no calories and no fat: it’s magic!
I also love making Asian rice with lots of sautéed vegetables, and I love making meats or fish with vegetable papillotes on the BBQ.
What would be the most difficult thing for you not to have in your fridge or pantry?
My healthy snacks. Every night, I allow myself a single small bowl of healthy snacks. Baked lentil or potato chips (like Special K or Pop-chips) or green pea chips. I try not to eat after 9 a.m., but I allow myself at least a small bowl of treats! I would also have a hard time without maple syrup, I’m obsessed with it. And I absolutely cannot live without my coffee!
Sliced bread or baker’s baguette or homemade bread?
Baguette bread, definitely. With good cheeses to spoil me! When I go to write or work at the Brûlerie in Terrebonne, they make an extraordinary chicken sandwich on baguette bread.
Cheese or dessert ?
Dessert! Crazy about crème brûlée, my favorite dessert. I can’t finish a dinner without dessert – healthy dessert!
Meat or fish ?
I couldn’t live without both. I’m addicted to salmon, trout, crab, lobster, and all seafood. I love steak, pork, eat a lot of chicken because I train a lot and need ‘a dose of protein. I also try to substitute meats for tofu from time to time to do my part, for environmental or ethical reasons as well as for health. Minced tofu is a mistake for spaghetti and chili sauces – you hardly can tell the difference.
Caramel or chocolate?
Caramel. But above all … salted caramel. I love the salted caramel nougat from the Nougaterie de l’Île d´Orléans and the Chocolate Favorites popped cone with Salted Caramel. I’m crazy about maple syrup, I put it in everything.
Beer or wine?
I have hardly been drinking for two years. For me, a drink of alcohol is a very occasional treat. Alcohol-free beer: Heineken, the best by far. There are non-alcoholic sparkling wines / champagnes that are extraordinary. Pierre Zéro Rosé, by Pierre Chavin, is one of my favorites.
Show me your favorite kitchen accessory and why you chose it.
My George Foreman Grill, to cook everything without retaining fat, quickly and without dishes. The height of efficiency, speed, or laziness. It depends (to laugh) !
Do you have a favorite recipe?
My mom’s stew. Or his Vietnamese soup with chicken. Or my partner’s (spicy) tofu chili. In fact, my wife cooks wonderfully, I let myself be spoiled.
Tell me about the culinary achievement you’re most proud of.
My famous Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Pasta and Tofu Bacon with Walden’s Farm Sauce, it tastes like heaven. You feel like you are eating a big dish of pasta, but in fact you are eating a super healthy and very low calorie dish … happiness.
Tell us that you miss things on occasion and have served a dish that was completely messed up …
I don’t make complicated recipes, so the good part is that I don’t miss them often. I’m not able to find the right pan it looks like, my eggs stick a bit when I make breakfasts and I often have to start them over to make them slightly turned the way my girlfriend likes them.
What do you miss the most, you who love going to restaurants, talking with chefs, watching them work, tasting their culinary creations …?
During COVID, what I missed the most was good sushi, little Mexican restaurants like Le Conquistador in St-Jérome or l’Agave in Terrebonne. Curiously, my wife and I are having a go at the salad bar at Scores. It is our ultimate convenience store when you want to eat quickly, well and fairly healthy without having to cook or go grocery shopping.
Your best dining experience ever?
Seafood, tartares and ceviche at Café de Paris, Dominican Republic, in the small village of Rio San Juan. Or the cod pancakes and Pot-en-pot, from Café de la Grave in the Magdalen Islands.
What did it smell like in you, in the kitchen, when you were little?
Banana bread, meat pies, stews and turkey for the holiday season. The good hot muffins when I arrived from school or the good donuts or pies from the Tart Kingdom in Quebec City, which was the door right next to us!
Do you take advantage, during this period of confinement, to redo the recipes that you ate as a child?
My mother sends her recipes to my wife, who remakes them to perfection. Banana bread, soup, Vietnamese soup, meatloaf, etc.
Favorite culinary products?
Les Épices du Guerrier, the best spices in the world on salmon, fish and chicken and even cheese curds. And Kanel “Organic Sunday Roast” spices that make everything taste like roast. I also love the “Honey and Chipotle” one that I make mayo and vinaigrette with, and their garlic salt is crazy! Walden’s Farm sauces, fat and calorie free.
In general, I like to make breakfasts! Since it’s one of the few things I’m the best in the house at cooking!
What can’t you do without in the kitchen?
Of all my health products and my spices.
A culinary crush?
A steak from St-Tite, which we order at Le Dalot restaurant, in Saint-André-Avellin, the little village where my wife comes from in the Outaouais. We order it in large boilers of about 20 to make it at home or eat it on the spot. But the greatest culinary pleasure that I have experienced in recent years is the multi-course regional meal at Auberge Godefroy, in Bécancour, or their gastronomic morning buffet, so varied and delicious! One of my favorite places in Quebec.
Crème brûlée, salted caramel, unemployed pudding with maple syrup. A good Ashton poutine in Quebec with sausages, extra sauce and mayo. A mozzarella trio at AW with poutine and French onions and a big frozen root beer. This is all once or twice a year, maximum.
Your favorite style of cooking?
Moroccan, I love tagines and couscous. I have been to Morocco twice and loved their cuisine. Le Marocain restaurant, in Vieux-Terrebonne, is like in Morocco, and they have a superb terrace. I love Latin and Mexican cuisine. Or my mother’s very Quebecois dishes.
Do you have a suggestion to help the catering industry in Quebec, how can we help them?
People must continue to go to restaurants, to encourage restaurateurs and places that work hard to meet the required health conditions and welcome us.