By Mike Cohen
Celebrity Chef Tigretón (www.cheftigreton.com) has joined the take-out scene at La Croqueteria de Montreal, the first Spanish Croqueteria in Canadian soil. It is located at 4530A Park Avenue and now open Tuesday to Sunday (4 pm to 9 pm).
Croqueterias in Spanish, are shops specialized in the elaboration of traditional Spanish Croqueta. The perfect Croqueta has to be, creamy, light, crispy & full of flavour.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chef Tigretón and his team are focused on daily cleaning, meaning, hot water and bleach by the buckets, making sure that no staff member is sick, and the usual mask or gloves to manipulate our food, and/or dealing with clients. “We’re also very positive and try to make clients laugh,” he says. “Our hand sanitizers are manufactured locally and made with lavender essential oil, alcohol and glycerin soap, therefore, hydrates your skin.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been working seven on seven,” Chef Tigretón said. “The first week we panicked, like everyone else, but after speaking with our bank and other financial institutions we decided to reopen again, and at least, present a good fight before going down. Action reaction always has been my motto. Today I’m happy we are headed in that direction.”
At La Croqueteria, the team uses fine organic ingredients, such as their flour is biological and non-chemically blanched; the pork comes from a small farm up north in Quebec; the chicken, only Chapon variety, also from another Quebec farm.; Spanish imported goods such as Jamon Iberico & Serrano, Piquillo peppers from the Lodosa Valley (D.O.), or Valdeon blue cheese from Picos De Europa (D.O.); and in the summertime, they stock up on veggies.
The project of La Croqueteria was born in 2014, in the perfect breeding ground. “I was heartbroken, penniless, in winter and jobless,” said Chef Tigretón “My current girlfriend decided it was time to become my ex, so you can imagine the scene. Luckily for me, I always had good friends, so, Patricia and Xavi offered me shelter, until I got back on my feet, and one night, having a conversation with them, sharing a glass of rum.”
Patricia told me “Your Croquetas are very good. You should offer them in Facebook and there you go, that’s all it took. Xavi designed a bunch of logos, I created a Facebook page, and overnight, I had like 300 to 400 likes. We were in business. We uploaded all the logos that Xavi made, and asked the people to vote. Our logo today is the result of these votes.”
Long story short, the project went on and off, on and off, till, one day, in 2017, he received a call from the food and beverage manager from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, saying, they have heard great things about his croquetas, and they were wondering if he would be interested in offering a tasting.
“The day of the tasting, I made some, fried them and walked into that room, by the Place Ville Marie office where the culinary management team of the Queenie, led by the Chef Peupion were waiting for me, dressed in the sober Bragard chef whites, and surrounded by papers, laptops and product,” he said. “On the other side, me, with my finest Hawaiian shirt, and a tiny box of croquetas ready to eat. I excused my elf for the temperature of the croquetas and the tasting began. They liked them. Chef Peupion asked me if I was able to supply demand and keep quality standards. I said, ‘yes,’ so he replied, ‘what about if I need 5,000? Cocky of me replied, ‘you’ll have to give me a week in the beginning, but yes no problem.’ The week after, somehow, I managed to get an industrial kitchen where to start producing, and that’s how we operate until Canada Day 2019 when I signed the lease for our current location. Canada Day, can you believe that? I couldn’t be more proud of being in this beautiful country developing such an endearing product!”
Today, La Croqueteria de Montreal offers very high-quality Spanish croquetas, even for Spanish standards. The menu, with over 25 varieties, offers Spanish classics, like, Jamon Serrano (Serrano Ham), Calamares en su tinta (squid ink), Rabo de toro (oxtail), o Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimps), but also offer that Montreal twist: smoked meat and gruyere, poblano peppers and corn, Margherita or Hawaiian. In case you didn’t know, Hawaiian pizza was invented by the Greek immigrant Sam Panopolus in Ontario in the ’60s, where he owned a Canadian diner.
On the pandemic, Chef Tigretón said he truly believes restaurants and bars fell into a coma. “They’re not dead, but it’ll take a while before they get back on their track,” he says. “For the past two decades, many restaurants and bars have been opened for the wrong reasons, and they had caused a dent in the quality standards of the industry. Razorblade thin margins, extremely thick red-tape regulations and a completely different system as the leading countries have weakened gradually this industry. Now, that everything has stopped, we’re victims of the kinetic energy we have created. No more than three decades ago, restaurants were a luxury. Nowadays, for many people, it has become a basic need. Business plans have been designed on capacity. Social distancing will chop that in half in the best-case scenario. How we will survive? I firmly believe it is time to observe how socializing will evolve, and adapt to it. Way less money will be made, but hey, we were never here for the money – at least the true ones!”
For more information log on to www.lacroqueteriademontreal.com or call 514-804-0654.