FOURty Seconds with Francis Wolf

22 Jan 2018
3 min read
Having previously trained under some of New York’s top kitchens – Alain Ducasse, Daniel and Aureole, FOUR takes a moment to speak to Francis Wolf of Manoir Hovey, Quebec, to find out how this picturesque Relais & Châteaux retreat inspires his cooking.

Tell us a bit about Manoir Hovey

Manoir Hovey is a beautiful, charming retreat on the shores of Lake Massawippi, just outside the picturesque village of North Hatley in Quebec’s Eastern Townships region. It’s a 90-minute drive from Montreal and just 20 minutes from the Vermont border. It was built in 1900 by a wealthy Atlanta businessman and is modeled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. There are 37 rooms and suites, and the hotel is a member of Relais & Chateaux, the luxury travel association.


What can guests expect at the restaurant?

At Le Hatley Restaurant, guests will experience a taste of Quebec and Canada as we interpret it. They’ll enjoy an authentic dining experience that conveys a sense of place, discovering many ingredients found nowhere else, prepared meticulously by a team of local and international talents, along with exceptional service and an extensive 800-label wine list. We have the largest cheese cart in the province, and an original, creative list of cocktails and pre or post dinner drinks. All this with a magnificent view of our English gardens and Lake Massawippi.


How did you decide on the menu?

The menu is influenced by what I’ve identified as seven seasonal flavor profiles, inspired by the bounty of the region: Birch, Chevreau, Seafood and Shellfish, Wild Mushrooms, Plants & Herbs, Sea Plants, Poultry & Fowl, and Preserves. The menu changes constantly to reflect these seasonal offerings. The season for many of the ingredients we work with is very short, so we’re always innovating with new recipes and different approaches. I try to find new ways to interpret and pay tribute to old ingredients. Often, simplicity is key to bringing out these delicate flavors, but other times we like to walk a finer line and push the boundaries with our approach. But these are also the times where we can really elaborate on great new dishes.


What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?

The distinct seasons that we see here in Canada, and all the ways I have found to cook in harmony with these changing seasons. Also, the quality of the produce available here, including rare or lesser-known ingredients that grow wild and in harmony with nature.


What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?

When I was 12, my dad took me hare hunting. At that time, he also showed me how to clean and cook the hare. It was at this very moment that I learned from himthat one must have profound respect for any and all wild and living things, and that this respect has to be remembered and prioritized in everything we do with food. This memory has really helped keep mehumble in all my years of professional cooking. It also planted the seed within me. I began to dream of all the ways that food can be transformed. I’m pretty sure I’ll never stop dreaming about food.


What are your most indispensable ingredients?

Birch syrup and vinegar, beach rose hips, sea buckthorn, edible foraged wild herbs, plants and flowers, sustainably sourced fish and shellfish, locally sourced and raised livestock such as goat calf, highland veal and beef, Quebec’s fabulous duck and foie gras. These are all phenomenal and mostly sourced in Quebec and Canada, but the real list is much longer than this. I would challenge any aspiring cook to find a better quality foie gras or duck than what is produced here in Quebec. And at the end of the day, my cooking is only as good as the quality of the ingredients I can work with. And I have been very fortunate in this regard.


What do you gain as a chef from collaborations such as this one?

I always enjoy reading and hearing about what other chefs are doing, because it inspires me. So If I can provide information about what I do that others may find interesting, it is a pleasure for me.


What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?

I have always had great respect for Michel Bras, dating back to my earliest years in the kitchen. Recently, I cooked a lunch with him and Olivier Roellinger at the Relais & Chateaux GourmetFest in Carmel-By-the-Sea. It was surreal to watch him plate one of my dishes as he humbly asked if he was doing it correctly!


What’s next for you?

I`m going to keep developing a cuisine that has a sense of place and that is firmly connected with my native Quebec and Canada. I`ve also got a number of projects for growing more produce on the Manoir Hovey property over the next few years, including our own forest native plants.


What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?

I really enjoyed the tasting menu of Aubergine at Auberge Carmel recently when I visited. I definitely plan to return there sometime soon.


Find out more information about Francis and Manoir Hovey here |