Canadian model and actor, Thierry Pepin, who moved to New York from his native Quebec, Canada, six years ago, opened a successful restaurant last summer called “T-Poutine”, which serves Canada’s national dish — poutine.
Poutine – a mixture of French fries, cheese curds and hot gravy – is making it onto menus alongside typical American fare like cheeseburgers and chili dogs.
T-Poutine (the T is for Thierry) is located in the Lower East Side, close to bars and the club scene, and offers 12 different variations of the item on its menu.
“It’s great, but it’s not easy,” says Pepin of the reaction to the calorie-laden creation, often described as a “heart attack on a plate.”
“A lot of Americans haven’t heard about it, are skeptical about it. But the ones that come to the restaurant open-minded, they want to try it. For the most part, they all love it.”
The rib-sticking dish is believed to have originated in rural Quebec in the 1950s, and several communities lay claim as its birthplace. One such tale involves Fernand Lachance of Warwick, Que., who was asked by a customer to add cheese curds to an order of fries and deemed it “une maudite poutine (roughly translated as “an unholy mess”). The addition of gravy came later.
Pepin says many of his customers are New Yorkers who attended McGill University in Montreal and got hooked on poutine. Canadians living in the Big Apple are also regulars, he says.
Now, it seems, poutine is going mainstream. T-Poutine and Pepin were recently featured on ABC News, which took a lighthearted look – replete with Mounties and lots of frozen tundra – at the invasion of this most Canadian of foods into the heart of its southern neighbour.
Pepin hopes the dish could one day be as popular with Americans as Mom and apple pie. He’s thinking of opening other T-Poutines and perhaps franchising.
“There are still a lot of places in New York City I think I could open … I would like to open a couple more, in Brooklyn and around. Places like Vegas would do really well or anywhere in the South. People love cheese. And it’s something new.”
“All around the U.S., I think if I can put it out there and bring it, I think we’ll have a huge crowd who’s going to be very happy.”