On Mathieu Paré’s first day at school, they had to draw what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most boys drew policemen and firefighters, Paré drew someone wearing a tall white hat, holding a pan of eggs. “I was crazy about food and eating,” he says.
In Quebec, his family were passionate food and wine enthusiasts, and it rubbed off: “I became an expert and developed a palate for fine maple syrup from a young age,” laughs Paré.” His interest in foraging food from the land came from his mother’s family, where produce came from the farm, not the store.
The family moved west for work, and his idea to be a chef wasn’t supported, so Paré studied Restaurant and Hotel Administration at SAIT, and worked at Earls and The King and I. On graduating, he took a sales job in his father’s gemstone mining and jewelry manufacturing business where he traveled to Asia, Latin America, and the US. “On the road I got to learn about food from different parts of the world,” he says. “It fascinated me, and I loved it.”
His vision for the future, however, was still to cook professionally, and his quest to learn all aspects of the industry has been quite a journey. Enrolling at SAIT as a mature student with work experience, Paré was serious about education, and he was awarded the Governor General’s Academic Medal. At school he’d been lucky to work at La Chaumiere with Chef Bob Matthews, and he leapt at an opportunity to work at Quails Gate Winery’s Old Vines restaurant, where he enjoyed exploring the influence of terroir on food and wine.
Wanting exciting jobs that would be beneficial for his career and progression in the kitchen, Paré moved back to Calgary to Rouge Restaurant soon after they’d received the San Pellegrino award, before being accepted by Royal Canadian Pacific as a chef. “The train was magical,” he says. “This travelling dining room would cross the landscape in southern Alberta and into the Rockies, out to the coast, and then to Toronto or down into the States. I loved it.”
To gain skills to use later though he needed to move on, and took a position at Boxwood Café in Memorial Park. “The size of the kitchen was very similar to the galley on the train,” laughs Paré. “I loved that restaurant and working with that team, but I lived in the East Village and Char Bar opened, and I was really interested in live fire cooking. It was a very professional, serious work environment – great managers managing a great business, and I got to learn how to cook beef and cook steaks.”
In 2017, Paré was recruited at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn, and keen to work with seafood and foraged ingredients, but soon after moving there he learned of a very interesting position at Canada Beef, where he is still today. “Considering my career path in culinary and the changes that I made along the way, this has been one of the longest in any one place,” he smiles. “And it’s one of the best jobs. I’ve had some amazing jobs and they’ve all brought value to my experience, but working for the producers to market and build value for our great Canadian beef, it’s a responsibility I take quite seriously. The impact can be very significant.”
What bottle is Paré saving for a special occasion?
“I like wine and I used to like it more, but now I’m more into beer, and when I think about opening that bottle, I think more about opening that tap,” he says. Paré is enamored with the Alberta craft beer movement, the quality of the products, and availability of taprooms. “The experience of drinking it from the tap freshly made is really, really lovely. I thought long about this question, and I thought, ‘what would I want to celebrate with?’ It would probably be a freshly poured pint of Ol’ Beautiful Pegasus, a dry hopped American-style Pale Ale. “The local products here make me feel proud. I want to support what we grow and what we produce here, including the barley and the products from it.”