About Us

Les Marmitons International

Les Marmitons is a gastronomic and social club of gentlemen who share a common interest in fine food, wine and the culinary arts.  Through regular gatherings in professional kitchens members gain knowledge and experience in the planning, preparation, presentation, and dining of various fine cuisines under the direction of a professional chef.

The tradition of a group of gentlemen inviting culinary professionals to lead them in preparing elaborate meals began in Europe many years ago, and was introduced to North America forty years ago by Swiss businessmen. The word “marmiton” is French and means a kitchen boy, or chef’s helper.

The first North American Chapter of Les Marmitons was established in Montreal in 1977.  Since then, the interest in learning more about fine cuisine has led to the founding of chapters in 18 Canadian and US locations. With the growing interest in food and wine our membership continues to expand and benefit from our traditions of promoting friendship and gastronomy.

 Further information can be found by visiting our International Website:     http://www.lesmarmitons.com

Niagara Chapter Les Marmitons

Our Chapter Executive:

President – Mike Berlis
 
Director Events – Albert Pasqua
 
Treasurer – Tony Grossi
 
Secretary – Paul Dutton
 
Director Communications – Ian Tester
 
Past President – Alex Macfarlane 
 

Founding President  – Ross Macfarlane

Les Marmitons Niagara in the News

Ross Macfarlane, president of Les Marmitons, Mike Wales, member, Mark Hand, executive chef of the Niagara Culinary Institute and Steve Gill, manager of wine and viticulture at Niagara College and Sommelier of Les Marmitons.

 

The following article entitled "Home on the range" appeared in the March 2005 Issue of Niagara Magazine.
Written by Linda Bramble           Photographed by Julie Jocsak

The original club was started in Montreal by Rene Suter, a businessman, who was a regular at a restaurant called William Tell, in Montreal, owned by Chef Peter Mulier. Suter kept telling Chef Mulier how he thought he could better his business. At that point, Chef Mulier politely suggested Suter team how to actually prepare the dish before offering his comments. Suter took advantage of the chefs offer for a hands-on kitchen demonstration. He found the evening so rewarding, he gathered a few more friends to join him on an extended culinary journey with other willing chefs. As many now attest, the outcome proved to be more than simply learning how to cook.

One of the early members, Jean-Pierre Jobin, was so enthusiastic about the club that everywhere his work took him for any length of time, he would start another chapter – from New jersey to Atlanta, Calgary to Toronto. Today there are 11 chapters and more than 300 members.

Les Marmitons (meaning “little kitchen helper”) was recently launched in Niagara by Ross Macfarlane, A commercial litigation lawyer originally from Welland, Macfarlane returned to Niagara from a 13-year stint in Ottawa. He had experienced an event at another Les Marmitons chapter and thought, since Niagara was such a dynamic place for wine and food, there might be some interest in starting a chapter here.

“I asked a few friends to join me for dinner one night when I proposed the idea, says Macfarlane. “We met again at my house to see what it might be like to cook together and we had so much fun, we decided to go ahead and begin a chapter.” in just a few months, the club has grown to 30 members. “I know a lot of guys who like to cook,” says Macfarlane, “They like learning the techniques and the gadgetry of it all.”

“I’m not looking to impress people with technique or obscure ingredients – I just really want them to enjoy what I’ve cooked,” comments member Michael Wales, “There’s also a great camaraderie among the members – we share informa­tion on new restaurants we’ve tried, dishes we’ve cooked, cooking methods we’ve tried, ingredients we’ve used, and, of course, gadgets we’ve bought.”

Monthly meetings are structured around a guest chef, who, prior to the event, plans the menu, prepares written recipes and makes a list of all the ingredients. Meetings are held at the Niagara Culinary Institute (NCI) at Niagara College, which does the food procurement. 

 

On the night of the event, the men gather between 5:30 and 6 p.m. in the dining room, where they enjoy a glass of wine and meet the chef who previews the menu. They form teams and don their uniform jackets, hats and aprons. After the chef demonstrates any special technique required, the teams are expected to work cooperatively to prepare their assigned recipe, with the chef close by to answer questions,

Besides their dress code, each member is expected to bring his own tool kit, including a set of knives, plus other gadgets of his own choosing, such as a peeler, thermometer, wooden and measuring spoons, a balloon whisk, grater, etc.

Besides their dress code, each member is expected to bring his own tool kit, including a set of knives, plus other gadgets of his own choosing, such as a peeler, thermometer, wooden and measuring spoons, a balloon whisk, grater, etc.

They strive to plate the first course by 8 p.m. Once served, the team leader describes the preparation and any special tip or technique the team learned, While this course is being cleared, the next team is in the kitchen getting ready to serve another course. Since the purpose is to Seam, the chef is expected to critique each team’s efforts.

 “They’ve been pretty gentle on us so far,” states Macfarlane, “considering some of the critiques other chefs have made in other clubs.”  Member Steve Gill, from the Niagara College Teaching Winery, pairs wine with each course, adding another layer of learning for Les Marmitons. Mark Hand, the college’s corporate chef, has also played a critical role in the club’s success. “We can never hope to repay the college,” states Macfarlane, “for their incredible support in allowing us to use their facilities at such a reasonable cost.” Les Marmitons plan to show their appreciation by raising money to establish scholar­ships for deserving young chefs entering the NCI program.

The men from Les Marmitons are reclaiming an ancient impulse to come together, not to show their prowess or status, but to learn and practice new skills. They are men who love the creativity, the sensuousness and the sheer enjoyment of fine food and friends.

“Do I try to impress my wife, or family and friends that we have over for dinner? Sure. It’s nice when I’ve cooked something, and I’m happy with the result,” notes Wales. “But when someone else really enjoys what I’ve cooked, that makes the effort I’ve put into it worthwhile.”