Meet the 14-year-old Quebec farmer behind Joe Beef's high-end lamb dishes
Louis Bilodeau started raising sheep 2 years ago after buying flock on Kijiji
Louis Bilodeau is not your average 14-year-old.
For one, Bilodeau — who lives in Saint-Michel-de-Bellechasse, a small town about 50 kilometres east of Quebec City — wakes up before sunrise to tend to his flock of sheep.
He started raising sheep two years ago, and now supplies lamb meat to one of Montreal's best-known restaurants — Joe Beef.
"At first, I wanted pigs, but my dad thought we wouldn't have enough room," Bilodeau said. "Three days later, I offered to raise sheep."
Soon after, Bilodeau announced to his parents that he had found a flock on Kijiji, and would need to pick it up in a few days.
Brigitte Fournier, Bilodeau's mother, was floored. "I said, 'What? On Kijiji?'"
After a $6,000 purchase, made with money Bilodeau raised from selling corn from the family farm, he had his herd.
His father, a dairy farmer, gave him an old building next to the stable in which to house his hundred sheep and two rams.
Since then, the flock has grown and his business is doing well. The 14-year-old spends his time balancing the demands of being a high-school student and a sheep farmer. He's even managed to integrate his flock into his social life.
"On Friday after school, my friends come to help me with them," Bilodeau said. "We're in a village here, and they have nothing to do. It changes the routine."
'An ethical choice'
Bilodeau sells all of his products to Joe Beef, on Notre-Dame Street West in Little Burgundy.
The deal came about because Fournier, who sells vintage dishes to the restaurant from her antique store, asked its co-owners if they would buy lamb from her son.
They agreed. Bilodeau sends them four lambs per production cycle.
"It's a meat that's not too thin, and it cooks well," said Frédéric Morin, one of Joe Beef's co-owners.
"I'm making an ethical choice by choosing to buy there rather than elsewhere," Morin said. "I'm sure the animals are raised with respect and have had a good life before being slaughtered."
Last Tuesday, the restaurant paid homage to their young lamb supplier by naming a dish, the smoked lamb Méchoui, after Bilodeau. In French, the name is Méchoui fumé de Louis.
Based on a report by Julie Vaillancourt of Radio-Canada's La Semaine Verte