In the Kitchen With: Claude Guerin, The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal

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Chef Claude Guerin has cooked in some of the finest restaurants the world over and now that she’s found her home in Canada, the country’s culinary scene is better for it.

The pastry chef — one of Canada’s best — was born in France to French and Japanese parents.

Her culinary journey has encompassed four countries across three continents, working at some of the finest restaurants in the world.

But her story started at home, training in the hospitality sector in France as a young woman.

“I studied hospitality in Thonon-les-Bains in Haute-Savoie, France and then worked in Paris for 10 years in pastry kitchens of prestigious establishments, such as Le Pavillon Ledoyen, Le Meurice and Le Bristol,” Guerin says.

The 38-year-old chef also worked at L’Hôtel in Paris, where, during her employ, the restaurant received its first Michelin star — a memory that will stick with her forever. “It’s my favourite memory as a chef,” she says.

Her repertoire of kitchen knowledge grew as she sharpened her skills at Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe and Asia, including a stint at Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin one-star restaurant in Tokyo, Conrad, where she says she had to work her way up to the top — a humbling experience for Guerin.

“When I moved to Tokyo, I had to start my career from scratch. I was a sous chef in France and had to be a clerk again when I arrived in Tokyo. It’s an important part of Japanese culture to start from the beginning when you are an expatriate. You really need to put things in perspective and put your ego aside,” Guerin explains.

She says a noticeable problem in the restaurant industry is the lack of female chefs, something Guerin fights back against every day, even on the more female-friendly pastry side of the kitchen.

“The pastry world has always been more feminine than the kitchen world. But it’s true that working as a woman in a kitchen, you need to be very strong, focused and not let anyone walk on your tracks. But I have a big personality and can fight back if needed,” she says.

Today, Guerin calls Montreal home, working at Maison Boulud in The Ritz-Carleton, Montreal hotel, where she was named Best Pastry Chef in 2017 by Canada’s 100 Best.

She says working in a hotel pushes her to always be ready for change and adaptation, using new products and tools in her creations, but if anything were her “specialty” it would be seasonal desserts, adapting her dishes in accordance with what she can get fresh from local producers.

For now, Guerin says her globetrotting days are over and she’s found her home. “In five years I see myself here, in Montreal. I love this city and wouldn’t move from it. Maybe I’ll open my own bakery shop,” Guerin says.

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