'Larger-than-life' Chelsea chef dies at 53

A giant in the restaurant industry is being remembered for his larger-than-life personality, his hospitality and his love of food.

Jean-Claude Chartrand was known for his gourmet meals and generosity

Award-winning Chelsea, Que., chef Jean-Claude Chartrand died on Tuesday. He's being remembered for embodying the hospitality of the industry he loved so much. (Radio-Canada)

A giant in the restaurant industry is being remembered for his larger-than-life personality, his hospitality and his love of food.  

Chef Jean-Claude Chartrand, owner of L'Orée du Bois, a restaurant located in Chelsea, Que., died last Tuesday, the restaurant's social media account announced. He was 53. 

While Chartrand had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the post did not confirm a cause of death. The restaurant had announced it would close it doors on March 27 after a staff member contracted COVID-19.

"He was happy when he was cooking for people," Véronique Rivest, the award-winning chef's friend of 30 years, told CBC Radio's All In A Day on Wednesday

"That sense of generosity and of convivialité – coming together and sharing around the table – was so much part of who he was," said Rivest, a renowned sommelier and owner of Soif wine bar and restaurant in Gatineau. 

Despite his success, Chartrand remained down to earth and "never took himself too seriously," she said.   

Manuela Teixeira, owner of the Chelsea Pub, said she was shocked by the news. 

"Jean-Claude was a good friend, a generous being of great joviality, whose good humour is legendary," she said in a French statement to Radio-Canada.

"It is a character larger-than-life who leaves us. He leaves behind an important legacy, that of fully savouring the finer things in life."

Chartrand removes the scales of his fish in this Radio-Canada file photo. (Radio-Canada)

On Wednesday, Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green said she was saddened to hear of his passing.

"He was a person involved in the community, an extraordinary leader and also a person who supported the events," she told Radio-Canada in French. 

"He was a giant in the restaurant community and, in Chelsea, a person who took up a lot of space — but in a good way."

Beyond the gourmet meals Chartrand was renowned for, Rivest said the celebrity chef helped spark a passion for the industry's up-and-coming chefs.

She said Chartrand also had a real love for the local food industry.  

"He represented the Outaouais, Quebec and Canada and international competitions, food competitions, always with such great pride to put forward our local produce," she said. 

Award-winning Chelsea, Que. chef Jean-Claude Chartrand died on Tuesday. We'll hear from his friend Veronique Rivest. 9:40

Rivest said even without a pandemic, it's challenging for the restaurant industry — especially for places like Chartrand's establishment which isn't located in a central, tourist area like Ottawa's ByWard Market.

Whatever Chartrand's family decides in terms of reopening his business, the industry will rally behind them, Rivest said. 

"Every single memory is around a good meal and some good wines and shared in good company," she said. "Every single memory with him."

With files from Radio-Canada's Christian Milette, Frédéric Pepin and Denis Babin

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