Next Thursday, Taverne Gaspar celebrates its two-year anniversary with an end-of-summer block party. And amid the cold beers, fresh oysters and fantastic live tunes, Chef Gérald Barthélémy will be working his hardest to make sure each dish lives up to the night’s expectations.
Barthélémy’s been with Gaspar for a little over a year now. Borne in France, he garnered experience in Paris’s kitchens before making his way to Montreal. Gérald’s sharpened skillset and shining culinary sensibilities come through in Gaspar’s menu of refined pub fare. Recently we had the chance to sit down with him and discuss where we draws his inspiration from, how Montreal’s kitchens differ from Paris’s and his penchant for tattoos.
You’re from Auvergne, France. How’d you end up in Montreal?
I was indeed born in Auvergne but my thirst for travel sent me all over! I left my hometown for the West Indies and then Paris. It was in the City of Lights that through hard work, I rose to the position of executive chef at the Hotel Vernet, a beautiful Parisian establishment. Contemplating new challenges and wanting to expand my travels further, I remembered that my father, in the mid ‘80s, had been working in a kitchen in Quebec. The idea took two years to gestate but I eventually I took a holiday in Montreal and absolutely fell in love with the city!
What are your impressions of Montreal’s culinary scene thus far?
Very surprised! There are so many restaurants, beautiful establishments and great concepts. I love going out, seeing what others are working on and finding new hotspots.
What brought you to Taverne Gaspar? And for those who have yet to visit, what should they expect?
I started at Gaspar in late October, only a few weeks after my arrival. Immediately, I fell for the atmosphere that’s both intimate and open, as well as the gourmet tavern concept, which was such a far cry from Paris’s haute cuisine. It’s precisely the type of restaurant I want to invite my friends to! The menu’s extensive; it oscillates between the North American, French and Quebecois traditions—a beautiful combination!
What’s your favourite menu item at Gaspar?
I really love the lobster rolls. The ribs too are perfect! My preferences change day to day but right now, that’s what I’d want!
Speaking of menu items, Gaspar’s participating in two great oyster fests this September (the day-long celebration at Terrasse Bonsecours and another lasting
all month long at the restaurant). What do you have in store for the occasions?
We’re putting a lot of focus on the launch of our new oyster bar and team. The teams got such great personality; we’re using extremely fresh products and all original recipes. We’ll be having a special on Beausoleil oysters with ginger or Champagne mignonettes. Also, we’ve got cod and oyster fritters, spicey avacado and crab and a seafood platter fit for a king!
I have to ask about the tattoos. I see you appeared in France’s Inked Magazine in 2012. What’s your relationship with body art?
My tattoos all represent events and people who have inspired me or touched me in some way. I’ve always loved tattoos. As far back as my teenage years, I recognized tattooists as artists in their own right. I admire masters like Jeff Gogue, Annie Frenzel, Rude Paris and many Montreal artists.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I listen to a lot of music, see my friends and spend a lot of time with my two bulldogs. I really enjoy their company; they help me unwind after a long work week. I have a very simple life.