Summer in the Winter: Fiona Genevieve’s Jardin d’Hiver

It’s the first real snow, and Montreal is moving slowly. It’s not cold out, but as every Canadian knows, winter is more complicated than temperature.

Walking along sidewalks is ever shifting all terrain trek, metro platforms are slippery with puddles, and the snow just keeps falling. All anyone can talk about is the weather, and I made it through the whole day without hearing a single word about the fact that it’s Friday the 13th.

I trudge through, grateful that it’s just a few more steps to my destination.

I’ve never interviewed a stranger in their home before, and I’ve certainly never been promised a professionally cooked bite to eat on a gig. Stepping into chef and entrepreneur Fiona Genevieve’s home is a warm and welcoming relief from reality; I already smell something delicious that I can’t put my finger on.

The founder of Molotov Cuisine is back in Montreal for a while (or longer) from the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia where she moved during the lockdown.

She’s lived in a lot of places — Ukraine, Russia, China — a journey that’s influenced her palate, contributed to her disdain for food waste, and led her to fermentation.

“Everyone that I met there, they were doing that already. And everything I ate there was fermented; I’m like, how do you get this flavour? And also, I started to garden a bit and I’m like, I don’t want this to just die away and like for me not to use it…I don’t want to toss things away because food waste is shit and awful, so I decided: dehydration, pickling, chutneys, all that.”

Fiona’s garden is growing well in Nova Scotia, as is her network. She’s met local farmers, allowing her to work within a pristine supply chain as she caters, hosts pop-ups, and teaching workshops. This month she’s holding first Montreal event at Turbo Haüs, a one night pop-up called Jardin d’Hiver.

While we chat she serves up one of the dishes from that menu, roasted carrots coated in apricot chamoy with mint and almonds. To call it basic would be an injustice: the flavours are complex — earthy and bright at the same time — the presentation beautiful.

Photo by Daniel Groleau

The word I’m looking for is something like fundamental, arcane, wholesome, ancestral. It’s the kind of food that fills you with more than calories, and I could live here, eating this forever while we chat and laugh in her kitchen. This is food for the soul, and the outside with all its weather disappears.

Bringing warmth to winter and balancing the blues is exactly her intention with Jardin d’Hiver.

“I’m trying to take the essence of summer, through preservation and fermentation, and bring those flavours into dishes now, mixed with the winter local stuff I can get…definitely the flower vibe, just the essence, the effervescence…Very summery, very tropical. We’re going to have the heat on. I want you to sweat a little bit when you eat my food.”

And while Fiona’s food could carry the evening by itself, the event is dinner and show, with Darragh Mondoux as Mistress of Ceremonies, Lea Keeley singing her soulful tunes, and Mina Minou performing burlesque.

“It’s going to be amazing; just eye candy, food candy; all the senses are going to be involved.”

Tables are selling fast, which is great; hopefully the response will encourage her to stay in town, host more delicious evenings, and teach some workshops. While we all had our proverbial come to Jesus moment about the importance of food during lockdown, we seem to have forgotten just as quickly.

Fiona’s quick to point out how accessible this all is. She has a mental library of hacks to avoid waste, and elevate ingredients, the kind of kitchen witch alchemy that used to be second nature to us.

“I think it’s honestly magickal,” she says, and I agree with my mouth full.

Featured Image by Daniel Groleau

Chef Molotov’s Jardin d’Hiver takes place Saturday, January 29th at Turbo Haüs, 2040 Saint Denis St. Cocktails at 6:30pm, Tasting & Performances at 7pm. Tickets and more info via Eventbrite

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