Growers & Co. met Ariane Paré-Le Gal, a passionate gatherer and wild cook, and co-owner of the company Gourmet Sauvage. Her mission is to highlight the edible resources of our forests by offering wild products from responsible harvesting. In this interview, Ariane invites us to reconnect with our hunter-gatherer instincts.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born on the Côte-Nord, but I spent a large part of my childhood in Montreal. During my teenage years, I often accompanied my father in the woods. I studied journalism and worked in television for almost 10 years. At that time, nothing predestined me to make wilderness gathering my profession.
Can you tell us tell us about the origin of Gourmet Sauvage ?
My father is a Franco-Manitoban with a passion for learning ancestral knowledge. For many years, he went to meet the First Nations people to observe and understand their hunting, fishing and picking techniques. At the approach of his 40th birthday, he felt the need to gather his knowledge and pass it on - this is when he created Gourmet Sauvage and commercialized the wild products resulting from his gatherings. At the time, in 1993, he was a true pioneer. In Quebec, as elsewhere in Canada, there was no market in this sector. It took about ten years before he could earn a salary. And then, over time, the company took root in the local landscape.
In 2007, while I was still a journalist, I co-hosted a show with my father called Coureurs des Bois on the theme of picking and wild cooking. I then went back into my father's ocean of knowledge, and I realized how precious his knowledge was. This knowledge is not something you find in science books or at school, it is acquired through practice and passed on from generation to generation. My father, at the time, wanted to move away from entrepreneurship to devote more time to teaching, so my husband and I decided to take over the business.
What about now?
Six years later, the company has grown and is now located in Saint-Faustin, near Mont-Tremblant. Specializing in the picking, processing and marketing of products from our forests, Gourmet Sauvage now offers more than a hundred wild products, hand-picked in all regions of Quebec and processed in the Laurentians. Jams, marinades, mustards and herbal teas with the flavours of the forest are also available in more than 200 points of sale across the province. Education is at the heart of our values and we have also set up wild harvesting workshops to help as many people as possible discover the precious resources of our province.
"I felt a responsibility to pass on my father's knowledge both in my immediate circle, but also on a larger scale."
What message does Gourmet Sauvage wish to share?
At Gourmet Sauvage, I like to say that we are creators of meaning. Our mission is to reconnect people to their wild environment and to recreate a link with the living. Through the lens of wild foraging, we help people rediscover the forest as an original and natural pantry. Educating the population to discover and respect its resources is essential.