Société Orignal

Monocle, October 2013

It would be easy to underestimate the market for sea urchin bottarga, broad bean flour or huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn; until two years ago, when Société-Orignal started selling its obscure, made-in-Quebec products, such a market scarcely existed. Today, however, the Montreal-based food supplier sells to North America’s top chefs, including Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm, who “freaks,” says Société-Orignal co-founder Alex Cruz, “on our spring honey.”

Although Cruz and partner Cyril Gonzales run with an elite culinary crowd, Société-Orignal is a decidedly democratic company. “We’re building bridges between restaurants and farms,” says Cruz. “By introducing the creativity of the restaurant business into farming, we’re bringing people together around ideas.” Initially, the two-year-old company worked only with high-end restaurants, but it now sells to small, independent businesses – like Cruz’s local café, which offers toast with raw honey from Quebec’s Gaspésie region – and consumers. As a result, home chefs can spice up dinner parties with a dash of citrusy Indian celery, small-batch maple syrup, or camelina oil, whose flavour defies description. (Cruz’s attempt: “It has notes of black tea, and it’s super-garlicky, with broccoli.”)

Société-Orignal’s goods will impress dinner guests, but for Cruz, that’s immaterial. Rather, his work – preserving endangered plants, reviving outdated farming techniques, experimenting in the kitchen – is aimed at igniting a creative spark in farmers’ fields, while also restoring a focus on simple, high-quality ingredients to everyday eating. “People buy honey right now that is cut with corn syrup,” he says. “Why should that be? Why should daily not be delicious?”

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