Shannon Gallant has been the culinary magician at Belliveau Orchard’s Café du Verger since October 2015. She is one of those savvy food people you find everywhere in Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco. She loves to talk about food because she’s always thinking about food.
In April, we had been interviewing at Abbey Landry School in Memramcook and thought it would be fun to stop for a snack at the Belliveau’s and discovered this exuberant woman behind the counter. In the time it took her to get our order, we learned that she had learned a lot of what she knew in Vancouver and at nutrition school and then farmers markets across Canada and that everything she cooked was local. So we had to interview her.
“Everything I cook here is my own recipe from scratch,” she says. “My recipe or my mother-in-law’s who is Acadian.”
Winning people over lunch by lunch
“The clientele here is used to a lot of traditional comfort food so I’m trying to put a modern spin on it. Some things I will not touch like chicken fricot, those are tried and true recipes,” she says, but she will experiment with dishes like quiche and introduce things she thinks people haven’t tried. She believes she is winning people over lunch by lunch. “Someone will say ‘I never had a quesadilla’ and say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s amazing.’” She says, “It’s fun seeing people try new flavours, new textures.”
The right person for the job
Robert Bourgeois, owner of Belliveau’s Orchard, said he had a gut feeling she was the one to take the restaurant to the next level. “When someone has a passion, it shows,” he says. They knew each other from Chamber of Commerce meetings and the farmers market and then she approached him with the idea that she could cook for them. “The timing was right,” he says, because they had just finished all the requirements for a license.
They will be renovating this summer with one wall being knocked out and and the restaurant expanded into the yard. “This fall it’s going to be crazy here. Finally, we have something to eat,” Robert says. “Some days on the weekend there are three or four thousand people for the U-Pick.”
Developed menu over winter
Now that the busy season is close at hand the lunch menu is pretty well set, but it took some time to develop. “We used the winter to play with recipes, see what people in our neighbourhood liked. The menu would change every couple of days. Once my lasagna ran out I would try a quiche, once the quiche ran out I would work on a different kind of soup, or a chili or a shepherd’s pie, any kind of comfort food that I could make a little bit healthier.”
Shannon is also having a great time with the community events they’re putting on. “We’re running a program now called The Mini-chef Series so we’re getting kids into the kitchen.” They had one where they had 18 kids in the kitchen and taught them how to make pizza.
More to come
Shannon has “a million ideas” for the restaurant. “Lunch is it right now but I would love to see more tapis, more finger foods, more munchies that you can come and have a coffee or glass of wine and sit with your friends and have a snack to share.”
Is this her dream job? “Absolutely,” she says. “This is my dream job. I’m cooking what I want. I’m using the ingredients I want.” And of course everything is local if possible, some of it from the property itself since Belliveau’s grows a lot of produce. They also source from the butcher shops and bakery in Memramcook. And with all her farmers market experience — including starting one — that makes her really happy.
Shannon seems to have nearly limitless enthusiasm for what she is doing at the restaurant and Robert Bourgeois is giving her all the creative input she wants. It sure sounds like a dream job.