The catering and gourmet agriculture communities are full of stories, reflections and solutions. Once a month, we give the floor to those who make up the richness and diversity of Quebec’s food trades.
Posted July 2
He’s a ball of energy, a rolling fire that never stops, a cook with a thousand and one projects. By opening Roch le coq in Outremont in 2019, Oussama Ben Tanfous put fried chicken on the menu. And what a chicken! Since then, it has been imitated many times, but rarely equalled. During the pandemic, his business exploded thanks to delivery and take-out. Last winter, the one who also collaborates on the show I eat at Télé-Québec has opened a ghost kitchen in the Chabanel district, where he brings his many ideas to life. Meeting around a barrel of fried chicken.
“My parents left Tunisia to come to Canada. I was 1 year old. My sister Asma, who launched Déserteur Vin, was 3 years old. When you come from an immigrant family, when your parents gave up everything to give you a new life, you are expected to be a lawyer, a pharmacist, a doctor… but not a cook! »
“I was studying chemistry at university and I worked at Les Enfants Terribles. One day, I had a big accident: it was very hot in the kitchen, a can of oil spray exploded in my face. I was burned on my face, arm, third degree burns. I was 23 years old. »
I was in severe burns, in convalescence for a year. My family was freaking out, they didn’t want me to set foot in a kitchen again. But me, after that, my one and only goal was to return to the same position that I occupied. It was there that I realized that cooking was my life. At first it was really toughbut today my family is proud of me.
Osama Ben Tanfous
“I stopped my studies, I travelled. I learned the basics of royal Thai cuisine in Thailand, then I did internships in Japan. Back in Quebec, I started working in the kitchen again. »
“I have no training, I learned on my own. At the time, at the Enfants terribles sur Bernard, there was a fiery team, people who pushed me to go further: S’Arto Chartier Otis, Janice Tiefenbach, Marc Giroux… All people who became chefs ! I was head chef, then executive sous-chef and head of caterers. I learned a lot, but it was too big, it was more like me. I decided to leave. »
” I love the fast food, I’ve always liked it. And fast food must not say crap food. There is something that can exist between McDo and its junk really not good and the restaurant that serves you a $30 burger! You can have a really good burger, a happy medium between the two. »
“I launched Roch le coq with Philippe Gagné and Rémy Karmouche, two childhood friends. We were cowboys, we opened with $40,000! It was six months before the pandemic. Let’s say there were a lot of stressful periods! But last week, we got to our $4 million in sales, in two and a half years. »
“A year after opening Roch, we really lacked the space to be able to produce. I agreed to open a Roch le coq counter on rue Chabanel and, in exchange, I had a large production kitchen. The first thing I installed in the kitchen was the disco ball! For me, a restaurant has to have a soul. There is the tangible, but also the intangible, the atmosphere. »
“When we launched delivery with DoorDash during the pandemic, sales exploded. We are their biggest point of sale in Canada, even if we are a very small restaurant! Delivery, I think it’s a habit that people will keep. »
“And as long as I set up a production kitchen here, I also had the idea of creating a ghost kitchen. We can thus offer several delivery concepts and make the most of space and labour. »
I’ve never liked restaurants with super long menus. I prefer concepts that specialize in one thing, but really well done.
Osama Ben Tanfous
“Market studies show that the biggest sellers on delivery platforms are poutineries and snacks, which represent 13% of sales. There weren’t really any around, so I came up with the first concept of our ghost kitchen, Casse ta croute. It’s inspired by the “chopped cheese” sandwiches served in bodegas in Brooklyn. It’s convenience store food that we try to elevate a little, but not too much, don’t distort it! »
“There is no secret, what allows me to advance so much is my team. Here, I decided to give shares to two cooks, Carlos Flores, with whom I have worked for eight years, and Étienne Charlebois. It allows me to have a stable team. And Étienne has launched his own ghost kitchen concept, Chair Cooked, which offers platters of charcuterie and artisanal sausages. »
“Last summer, with Claudia Ferreira Service Parc Montréal, I launched picnic boxes delivered to the parks with an ecological compostable BBQ. We continue this summer. We are developing our catering and setting up service for other restaurants. And all summer, we’re going to have a kitchen on the terrace of the Mellön Brasserie, where we’re going to sell Roch le coq and Casse ta croute. »
“Gastronomy, a fixed menu with customers who have expectations, that no longer appeals to me. It’s not worth it, for the little money you make and the stress you’re going through. I prefer to keep it for events, I’m more of a pop-up kitchen guy. The day I’m going to open a restaurant, it will be the day I’m going to be ready to lose money! »