As part of the Dine Out Vancouver Festival 2017, there is something called the Vancouver World Chef Exchange. Noted chefs from around the globe will come to Vancouver to taste, explore, and, of course, to cook alongside some of our own best and brightest. Jamie Bissonnette, whose restaurants are Toro and Coppa in Boston, and Little Donkey just across the river in Cambridge (he also has a Toro in New York City and in Bangkok), is a down-to-earth, rising culinary star. He was ahead of the curve in terms of serving tapas-style food on this continent, and will be bringing his talents to L’Abattoir on Jan. 29. We have chef Lee Cooper to thank for that.
“I cooked with Jamie on a few occasions, and we had a fantastic time,” says Cooper. “I recently cooked with Justin Leboe at Model Milk in Calgary, and it was great, reminded me how special it can be cooking with another chef. But for me, hosting is easier than visiting. Still, it comes down to who you want to hang out with for a few days. I wouldn’t do this with someone I didn’t know.” So, when Tourism Vancouver approached L’Abattoir and asked Cooper who he would choose, the answer was relatively simple: Bissonnette.
“It will be my first time in Vancouver, so I am really pumped,” says Bissonnette. “I know Lee’s restaurant is quite different from ours here in the East, but we will work out a few ideas, and make it special.” He won’t bring much by way of ingredients with him: “No, only a few things like pickled or fermented items, things I really can’t source on the spot. But if you are coming to Vancouver, you want to use the local food sources, for sure. That’s what makes it so exciting.” Cooper adds, “It will be fun, for sure. Not ‘celebrity chefs’ selling tickets, just two dudes who cook for a living.” Bissonnette responds with a laugh and says that “Lee is a master with little green eggs. So I know we can meet pretty much any challenge.” The “green eggs” in question are several mini barbecue grills, which Cooper cooked with to save the day when his and Bissonnette’s chicken plan, during a previous collaborative dinner, was upended by a malfunctioning rotisserie. Cooper explains, “We had to improvise, with only an hour to service. So we cut up the chickens, did some sauce, and grilled them on the eggs. It turned out well.”
Vancouver diners will be treated to dishes that are emblematic of Bissonnette’s restaurants. “I want my dishes to represent the restaurants for sure,” he says. “When Lee asked me, I jumped at the chance. I had been invited before, but the timing was never right. So now, I get to experience the Vancouver food scene, and then share some of our own ideas with Vancouver guests. What a treat.”