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Winning over golfers – and others – with healthy cuisine

The healthy, outdoor living of golfers doesn’t necessarily carry over to their meals at a clubhouse, but a culinary couple in Malartic, 20 kilometres west of Val d’Or, Québec, is successfully changing appetites.

By Julie Gedeon

In fact, the Malartic Chamber of Commerce recently awarded Côté Cuisine, the catering/restaurant enterprise owned by Jacinthe Girardin and Marc-André Côté, its “great taste” emblem.

“Yes, the food we serve is healthy, but it’s also delicious,” says Girardin.

The couple has slowly but steadily implemented healthier cuisine over the past two years. “If we had eliminated poutine when we first started here, there would have been a riot,” Côté says. “Now, people don’t even notice it’s not on the menu anymore.”

Onion rings, pogo dogs and other deep-fried decadences have been eliminated in favour of food that reflects the couple’s strong belief in the health benefits of Mediterranean-style eating.

“We love the aromas and flavours of Mediterranean food,” says Côté. “And smaller portions of good meat or fish served with lots of vegetables cooked with olive oil and/or lemon make sense.”

In addition to à la carte selections, three choice dishes are offered daily based on the best seasonal produce as part of a cafeteria-style luncheon open to club members and the public. Fish is featured three times a week. Côté Cuisine has also introduced Malartic to different seafood, including calamari.

“Malartic is a wonderful community, but it needed a fresh, slightly more adventurous option for eating out,” Côté says. “Before we arrived, there were only the fast food joints, a long-time rotisserie, and a Chinese restaurant.”

Thursday’s pasta bar is immensely popular. The vegetables-to-meat ratio is about three-to-one. “We put spinach and all kinds of other fresh vegetables into our pasta dishes to make them more tasty and nutritious,” says Côté. “We also regularly introduce new healthier types of pasta and make all our sauces from scratch.”

Girardin and Côté have been on the same wavelength food-wise since meeting and falling in love at a culinary school in 1997. Their particular fondness for healthy Italian fare comes from Côté’s working for several years in a prominent Québec City restaurant whose chef had explored Italy to find the best dishes. Girardin worked in another popular Québec City restaurant that always puts a healthy twist on traditional fast food.

A skilled pastry chef, Girardin customizes wedding cakes and other desserts. “Everything is homemade,” she says. “So we prepare healthier desserts through our ingredient choices and, of course, the freshness.”

Given the couple’s dietary philosophy, some might be surprised to see French fries on the menu. “Everyone needs occasional indulgences,” Côté says. “And we make our fries from wonderful Témiscamingue potatoes with zero trans-fat oil.”

5 tips to cater to healthy eaters

  • Serve quality over quantity. Customers appreciate superior taste over piles of bland food.
  • Make gradual changes. Bake rather than fry some dishes.
  • Look for ideas/inspirations. Suppliers and distributors often have recipes and tips.
  • Educate staff. Take opportunities to inform customers about your healthier cuisine by ensuring wait staff can talk about the specialness of seasonal produce.
  • Stay open-minded. Include some food outside your personal tastes on your menu.