Chef Irene Li
We recently spoke with Irene to find out more about the world of mobile foodservice and its differing processes from work-life in a brick-and-mortar restaurant kitchen.Read Bio
Foiegwa has been called Montreal’s original French diner. Can you explain the inspiration behind your restaurant?
The inspiration is a mix between a French bistro and an American or Canadian diner. We really try to combine both flavors together. What's cool is that we can have a burger with beurre de lait classic French sauce or make frog legs but with a fried chicken-like recipe using ranch sauce. This restaurant really gives us the freedom to make dishes our own.
With the menu featuring Americanized French cuisine, describe your flavor process for representing both sides in a dish.
Sometimes people think, "how do you do that? How can French be mixed with American dishes?" I think they go really well together and it's easy for us to do because I'm from France and have been living here for 15 years now. It's great to be able to mix the two together and it's fun as well. I can do French fries with a truffle mornay on top or the fried frog legs with the beurre de milk ranch sauce.
Sometimes when I have a hard time sleeping, I think of these recipes and then fulfill them and it works. On the other hand, sometimes, when we do experimentations we have to adjust. Most of the time, it works pretty well.
What are some of the challenges in presenting menu features that are considered both French and American in style?
The biggest challenge I face is when I have something in mind and think it’s going to turn out really well but when I try it, it’s not as perfect as I imagined. It’s all about taking the time to adjust and make it perfect.
Where else do you find inspiration when creating new dishes for your menu?
I like to travel so when I do, my goal is to find all of the best restaurants and see the mentality behind their restaurants and kitchens especially in the United States, Spain, France and Italy because I know they will be very inspiring for me.
What role do spices and seasonings play in your dishes?
They play a huge role in each of the cuisines that I make. For example, when I am creating more French dishes I tend to use steak spices because we use them to rub our meats and make the flavors very powerful. On the other hand, for our European inspired dishes we tend to use more herbs to infuse the flavor of the dish rather than spices and seasonings. Then when it comes to American dishes we have the freedom to use any type of spice we want. It really varies depending on what we want to achieve.
How does being in Quebec influence your day-to-day processes and food selection?
We're lucky because in Quebec, especially around Montreal, we’re surrounded by a number of very great products. I like to see where they're from, how they're made and it's always fun to experiment.
Are there any ingredients or dish ideas that we could see making their way to the centre of the plate in the near future?
Artisan chicken, possibly.