“Témiscamingue, is a vast region stretching to horizon, with rolling fields, deep lakes and beautiful mixed stand forests. Its microclimate makes it special; here we can grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables. The region offers many opportunities to those who wish to discover it, including gourmet excursions, many public food markets and several agri-processors. […]
Nadia Lachance, master in the art of festing
The bright cyan blue sky is reflected in the calm waters of Lake Timiskaming under a blazing sun. This scene is conjured up by the picturesque town of Ville-Marie and as you intend to make the most of it, you get some provisions and head down to the Parc du Centenaire on the shore of the lake.
You have just found a spot to sit down, when along comes a young girl with short, blond hair, whose glasses and flowered dress pleasantly remind you of the style of the fifties (the one that’s coming back in vogue, unlike the doubtful old dresses your aunt stubbornly insists on trying to hand down to everyone). She calmly and meticulously sets up for a picnic. Everything’s there: the checkered tablecloth, the basket, the cutlery. Upon seeing the tempting food that she pops out of her basket, you tell yourself that this young lady doubtlessly masters the art of feasting and cannot help but talk to her.
You thereupon learn that this cheerful and engaging young girl is Nadia Lachance, co-owner of restaurant Elle et Louis. If today you are seeing her take the time to have a quiet picnic on the shore of the lake, it is far from being a coincidence, as she’ll tell you herself: “I am a very, very active person who likes to have the time to take her time. We’ve made it so our restaurant is open only four days a week—which offers us a rare opportunity in life. That of having the time to actually enjoy life—one of my core values—to do things like just gaze at the sun and the blue sky.”
She probably did not imagine during the restaurant’s first year that she and her partner, Louis, would achieve this much freedom as, let’s be honest, opening up a restaurant requires a significant investment in time. “Starting up the restaurant,” she says, “was a crazy idea.” Sometimes I tell myself that I’m going to do such and such a project without having any idea of what it requires or the amount of work it entails. And when it’s ultimately done, I end up saying, “Yeah, well that was a lot of work finally … it wasn’t that easy.” Opening up the restaurant was the most difficult project she has ever undertaken in her life—a decision that stripped her of a fair part of her childish naiveté and ushered her into, not without pain, the adult world.
Today, however, she states that she is quite happy with the choices and decisions she has made: “What I like about my work is that people come to a restaurant to partake in pleasure, so the rapport I have with them is based on that pleasure. They come to be together, to be with their family, to celebrate. Even those who come on business aren’t at home, so that does them some good and they’re impressed that the atmosphere is so fun and the food so good. You get all their gratitude, and their joy rubs off on you. People aren’t just numbers for us, we place strong emphasis on making them feel welcome and guiding them in their choices. We’re very focused on making it human and warm. It’s an experience, an encounter in and of itself. It’s as though my relationship with them were a story book filled with lots of little stories!”
Nadia has trained as a cook, pastry chef and baker, so it’s safe to say that’s she’s been doing this her entire life. Being her own boss, however, is something that offers her a whole new level of freedom that she didn’t have before: “I like the fact that I can do what I want, that anything is possible. You imagine something and then you just do it! I had stopped working in restaurants because I was working in places where I couldn’t respect the way they were doing things or the materials they used, whereas in my restaurant, I can set my own course! If one morning, I get up feeling like I’d like to make poutine with maple syrup, I just do it! There are no limits to what I can create.”
Nadia’s originality and creativity is glaringly obvious upon simply glancing at the pastries she presents you. “Yeah, what I like the most is creating stuff,” she confides. “And I have the perfect boyfriend for that. He’s more down to earth, so it’s the ideal combination. I’m full of ideas and he applies them with brio, so it’s great fun!”
With a personal motto like “only death will kill you,” it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that this dreamer doesn’t place too many restrictions on herself and also really loves to travel. As she talks to you about all the countries that she has visited (the Czech Republic and Italy are among the most recent), those she is planning on discovering (Croatia!) and all the places she has lived in Quebec, she confesses the unspeakable truth: even though she was born and raised in Amos, she only set foot in the Temiscamingue region at the age of 31. “I know it’s kinda ridiculous,” she says. That’s probably why she makes a point of enjoining visitors to make the most of their trip and discover the Abitibi-Temiscamingue region as a whole: “See different places! Come one way and leave by another. Often, people just travel through too fast. Don’t just visit the Abitibi or just the Temiscamingue region, come see the difference. The climate, the atmosphere—they’re not the same. It’s like having two regions for the price of one, in the end, and both are worth visiting!”