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Melissa Craig takes Montreal by storm

Bearfoot Bistro chef one of 50 top female chefs honoured in Montreal



The restaurant world has long been dominated by testosterone but a steadily growing body of female chefs is rising through the ranks and Whistler's Melissa Craig, executive chef of the Bearfoot Bistro is one of them.

The oft-awarded Craig recently returned from Montreal, where she was one of 50 female chefs invited from around the world to attend the prestigious Montreal High Lights Festival.

"They usually pick a region to focus on at the festival, but this year instead of a region they were doing women chefs of the world. It was an honour to be invited," said Craig, who attended the festival five years ago. "So I designed a meal and wrote the menu, which was themed "west coast girl meets east coast boy," so I brought a lot of my product and focused mostly on west coast."

During the festival, Craig was the guest chef at Chez L'Epicier in Old Montreal, owned by chef Laurent Gaudbout. Tickets for the one night affair sold out so quickly that the team decided to host a second night to appease Craig's fans. The dinners included Dungeness crab, black cod, Okanagan blue cheese and Vancouver Island sea urchin sabayon.

"It was received really well," she continued.

"The difference between male and female cuisine was a big focus of their event.

"I had a chance to eat quite a few meals there...and maybe because of the cold weather I think it is a lot more hearty with bigger portions and a lot more meat - not so much fish as I used - so it's hard to distinguish the femininity."

Craig added that gender differences in the culinary arts are typically highlighted by management style rather than treatment of cuisine.

A festival highlight for Craig was meeting her culinary hero, High Light's honourary president Anne-Sophie Pic, the only woman in France to have won three Michelin stars.

Bearfoot Bistro owner Andre Saint-Jacques was also in Montreal to teach the 200 guests attending the diners the art of Champagne sabering. Saint-Jacques holds the Guinness World Record for the most bottles of champagne sabered in a minute.

Craig and her team head to California's famed Napa Valley for a wine auction next Friday and will carry on to cater an event in St. Martin in the Caribbean the following week.