Martin Parker, Le Cellier

Martin Parker is Executive Chef at the restaurant Le Cellier in Gatineau, Québec. He found his calling in the kitchen early, when he was just 16—at hotels, caterers, golf clubs and in fine dining. He worked in the Le Cellier building 7 years ago when it was another restaurant; after a change of name and ownership, Parker returned to spearhead the food and beverage decisions.

Tell us about your inspiration and the way you build a menu.

MP: Inspiration comes from everywhere—nature, books, other chefs and family members. Also from Normand Laprise; he has done so much to put Québec regional ingredients forward with great ideas and talent. We change the menu according to seasonal ingredients available. During winter the dishes are more braised and hearty, and during summer more light and fresh.

How about promos? Inventory strategies?

MP: We do promos: on Wednesday night it’s oysters and Thursday is Crudo Night, tartare and carpaccio. Food waste is of little concern here. With specials we just do a small amount and when everything is sold it’s wiped from the board. So, little excess inventory is kept.

Any tips on top-notch staffing and training?

MP:  Take care of your employees; they’re the heart and soul of your operation. Always make yourself available to show things and answer questions. Never leave them on their own until they are comfortable. We’re a small brigade—a tight group who communicates well and has each other’s back.

What are your thoughts on competing, especially with chains?

MP: I don’t think we’re aggressive. We do what we do, and people come if they like it. It’s worked well so far. We do use both an online and phone booking system, which grants better management of reservations and tables. Social media is very important, since people like to see what we do and it gives an incentive to come and try it. Chains are well-oiled machines. I tend to take more from an organisational standpoint than menu ideas.

You count on AOF to maintain and build business.

MP: I like them to work with me on menu ideas and new product suggestions. We stay in good communication. I want to be busier than ever. The rise to the top is hard, but staying there is harder.