I believe I can speak for everyone when I say that we’ve all celebrated something at a Baton Rouge restaurant at one point in our lives. A birthday, Mother’s or Father’s day, any occasion that was an excuse to dine out in a group, we’ve all done so at a Baton Rouge. I remember, back in the day, it was a favourite go-to spot for many reasons. The place was casual, affordable, and the food was always delicious and consistent. Founded in Montreal in 1992, Baton Rouge now has 31 restaurants across Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia and they recently opened their new location at Place Ste-Foy (at 2450 Laurier Boulevard) in Quebec City. I was invited to the grand opening festivities as well as to guest judge their inaugural Iron Chef BR competition!
The Iron Chef BR Competition started as an internal competition amongst the 31 locations. Each restaurant was represented by one chosen staff member who competed for the chance to be among the three contenders at the final round on June 15th, 2016 at the grand opening of the Sainte-Foy location.
The finalists were Pierre Nault, Raphael Cloutier, and Mariam Assaff. I had the privilege of sitting on the judge’s panel that included Franck Le Cunff, corporate and executive chef of Rational, Jean Bouthillier of E&J Gallo Winery, fellow blogger Véronique Ouellet as well as Quebec Television chef and restauranteur, Giovani Apollo.
The Iron Chef concept is simple. The chefs were given the same ingredient (chicken) and had 20 minutes to create a dish. The dishes were judged on presentation, creativity, taste and connection to the brand. The winning dish will be added to the permanent menu and be available at all Baton Rouge locations starting in September. Not to mention, the winning chef will also be awarded a cash prize and take home a big fake foam-board cheque.
Chef Nault’s dish was a rib stuffed chicken breast with cheese. It was served on top of sautéed vegetables, wild rice pilaf drizzled with Baton Rouge’s signature BBQ sauce. The flavours were nice, however the cook on the chicken was inconsistent. Parts of the chicken breast were cooked and others, barely. The dish was clunky and heavy.
Chef Cloutier’s offering was creative to say the least. He served a polenta croquette stuffed with chicken and vegetables with a side of chickpea salad and a spicy mayo dipping sauce. The croquette was dry. Very dry. We all agreed that instead of one giant croquette, multiple smaller ones would have been better and probably could have been served as an appetizer. The chickpea salad was uneventful and uninspired. The entire dish was creative conceptually, but ultimately it was difficult to eat.
The grand prize winner: Chef Assaff’s Breaded chicken fillets with a creamy spinach sauce! The dish was served over wild rice pilaf, sautéed vegetables topped with a chunky cranberry chutney and garnished with grilled citrus! I found that Chef Assaff’s dish was light but substantial. The flavours were great and the dish had a great combination of textures that was extremely pleasant to eat. I thought that this dish would compliment the other menu items nicely. Not only did she incorporate elements from existing dishes, but she also introduced new ones. The composition and plating was what elevated her dish above the competition. The portion was spot. She was mindful of ingredients and the dish had a great connection to the brand. Having taken a bite or two of each of the competitor’s dishes, this was the only one I wanted to finish.
The points were extremely close in the final tally. However, in the end it was a unanimous decision across the board that Chef Assaff’s dish reigned supreme.
The composition and plating was what elevated her dish above the competition. The portion was spot. She was mindful of ingredients and the dish had a great connection to the brand. Chef Assaff’s dish was light but substantial. A relative breath of fresh air if added to a steakhouse menu. I thought that it would compliment the standard menu nicely. Not only did she incorporate elements from existing dishes, but she also introduced new ones.
I was excited to be apart of this event. Not only was I able help award an awesome prize to a kitchen team member, but got a close-up look of the new Baton Rouge Steakhouse and Bar rebranding. The space is beautiful and they are definitely going in a different direction in terms of ambiance and decor. All future and existing Baton Rouge Steakhouse and Bar locations will be modelled after or inspired by the Ste-Foy branch. Gone are the days of the stereotypical steakhouse – dark and mysterious decor bathed in mahogany accents, gold-plated fixtures, and slatted windows. “Open”, “spacious”, “refined” and “updated” are words that come to mind when thinking of the new concept of the brand.
For over 24 years, the Baton Rouge brand has forged a reputation of offering a great ambiance, outstanding food and a memorable experience. Without compromise on food quality, Baton Rouge Ste-Foy ushers in a new revitalized and modern look to the brand.
I’d like to thank the great team behind the scenes for the amazing time and opportunity as well as for introducing me to the new Baton Rouge Steakhouse and bar. I look forward to seeing this initiative making its way to Montreal!
Bâton Rouge Steakhouse & Bar
2450 Boulevard Laurier