Gaining more and more followers in Quebec, barbecue has become more than a way of cooking, it is a lifestyle for those who have adopted a passion for grilling, a visibly contagious pastime, according to a growing enthusiasm.
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“Customers who have 3, 4, 5 devices each doing specific things are no longer rare. They are really thrilling, ”says Ghislain Labonté, co-owner of the BBQ Labonté specialty shop.
The newspaper today presents the portraits of these enthusiasts for whom the barbecue has become a religion. Once reserved for beautiful summer days, the passion for grilling is now experienced rain or shine, twelve months a year in Quebec.
“People tell me that their season lasts from April to October and that after putting away the barbecue, it is important not to,” insists Clément Chiasson, an enthusiast who launched the online training. “There’s no way I’m waiting eight months to eat my steak on the grill! “
Explosion of the phenomenon
Indeed, the passion of these grill fanatics is such that it is not uncommon for Ghislain Labonté to welcome customers from Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean or even Gaspésie to his shop in Drummondville, in central Quebec.
“You have to be quick to go all this way to shop for barbecues, buy spices or ask for advice,” laughs Mr. Labonté.
This is just one example among others of the rise of barbecue in Quebec. Butchers are also at the forefront of this madness and admit that the market has grown in recent years, especially with the pandemic.
“It completely exploded. The restaurants were closed and people realized that you could eat well at home, ”says Anthony Bérubé, director of the Delecta butcher in Quebec.
And many also realized that the barbecue, while intimidating at first glance, was accessible. You don’t need to be a chef to find his account. “Even the people who burned the water realized that they weren’t that bad, that it wasn’t that hard,” jokes Ghislain Labonté.
A shared passion
In the age of social networks, the flame is spreading faster and faster as the channels and accounts dedicated to barbecues multiply. The ripple effect is significant and experts are watching it.
In fact, the taste of grilling has become a way of life for many who are ready to get up at 5 am on Saturday to start smoking a piece of meat that will be devoured by friends in the evening.
“Young dads’ projects have changed. He won’t go to the bar on Friday night anymore, he will be barbecuing all weekend. My friends that I dated before, became mine partner barbecue and that’s the way it is for many people, “says Anthony Bérubé.
“It goes beyond the kitchen,” adds Patrick Lepage, co-owner of AAA Boucherie Gourmet in Montreal. “We have a population that is educated on the phenomenon, who want to know it. They read, they go on the internet, it’s a real passion. ”
Customers want to broaden their horizons
Photo Stevens LeBlanc
Anthony Bérubé, director of the Delecta butcher shop in Quebec, says that the public has really discovered the possibilities of cooking on the barbecue, while also trying to cook whimsical pieces.
The high-speed development of the barbecue industry will also have involved a transformation of the butcher’s profession, which has become an accompaniment, an advisor for these enthusiasts who want to broaden their horizons.
To illustrate this change, AAA Boucherie Gourmet’s Patrick Lepage says most of its 26 butchers are also skilled cooks.
In this way, they are not only there to slice the meat, but they support the customer.
“Cutting meat is no longer enough. […] The bond of trust is important and most of my butchers are also cooks in order to be able to bring the customer to their destination. “
These skills also allow us to offer new cuts to customers who are increasingly fond of new products.
The flank steak, for example, was not common until a few years ago.
However, today it is among the best sellers of specialized butchers.
“The tab is very popular, but they are very fragile cuts. These are pieces that are classified as offal elsewhere, ”explains Mr Lepage.
Maximize the carcass
He points out that these new and varied cuts also allow butchers to maximize the utilization of the entire carcass, which makes it possible to “offer pleasant prices for the customer”.
Some are now even willing to shell out big bucks for quality parts, something you haven’t even seen in the not-so-distant past.
“I have a Japanese wagyu that retails for $ 125 an inch and I have people come in and take 2, 3, 4. We slice the steak and our hands shake so much it is of high quality,” says the director of the Délecta butcher in Quebec, Anthony Bérubé, drawing a parallel between grilled meats and wines.
“It’s the same thing. People have prepared themselves for this, they have learned to exploit quality, to appreciate it,” emphasizes the trader.
Less meat, but …
“People eat less meat and that’s okay, we’re changing. But they say to themselves “the times we eat it, we want to remember it, we want it to be good”, adds Patrick Lepage.
The madness of extravagant cuts of meat
Photo Pierre-Paul Biron
The “hammer of Thor”, a shank of beef that is the new darling of amateur chefs who love to amaze the gallery.
The tomahawk, Thor’s hammer and other pieces of meat of insane proportions are a treat for carnivores who want to put on a show for their guests. And they are more and more, according to the butchers who no longer supply.
“Just on Father’s Day weekend, we had a promotion on the Tomahawk, a piece that has become popular but is still out of the ordinary. We sold 700 ”, Anthony Bérubé, from the Delecta butcher’s shop, is still surprised.
“It doesn’t make sense, it shows the enthusiasm and the phenomenon. “
In search of trends
Same with Thor’s hammer, a huge bare-bone shank of beef that looks just like the comic book hero’s huge hammer.
After a Montreal butcher posted a photo of the piece on social media, the barbecue community went haywire.
“Suddenly everyone wanted him. This is where we measure enthusiasm, it’s instant. And we have to be careful, don’t be the last to have it. You have to be on the lookout for these new trends ”, explains Mr. Bérubé.
The social media craze
TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, podcasts; There are so many ways to follow barbecue enthusiasts on social media that undoubtedly contribute to the growth of this culinary pastime. And you don’t have to be a professional to share your passion, that’s the beauty of social networks.
“These are enthusiasts who have full time jobs and who leave TikTok. And they are really good! It definitely influences people to try and do business. Seeing them go, people realize that you don’t need to be a professional cook to make good food at home, ”says Ghislain Labonté, co-owner of BBQ Labonté, happy to see that the passion has passed.
“You try things and then you invite one, you invite the other, you are proud to show that you are making great food, the others taste it and they want to try it too. People are discovering products they were unfamiliar with and it’s solid. “