Acclaimed Gatineau-based chef Marysol Foucault is hanging up her apron — at least temporarily.
Foucault announced on social media this week that her much-loved restaurant Edgar will close Aug. 15, prompting a flood of warm wishes from surprised peers and customers.
In an interview Wednesday, Foucault said she is putting her business and its building up for sale to spend more time with family, in particular with her four-year-old son and ailing mother.
“I still love food,” she said. “I just need a break. It will be a welcome break.”
While Edgar, which opened in 2010 in Gatineau’s Hull sector, serves just lunches and brunches, it garnered a tremendous following thanks to Foucault’s fine-dining sensibility and heartfelt cooking.
Despite the pandemic, Edgar has done well in recent years, Foucault said, pivoting to offer food and wine to-go exclusively before re-opening its dining room. On Wednesday morning, a queue of customers formed instantly as soon as Edgar opened at 11 a.m.
While Foucault, who grew up in Vanier and Hull, is a self-taught chef who started working in Hull restaurants as a teenager, she represented the Ottawa area at the 2014 Canadian Culinary Championships.
Edgar has been profiled on several Canadian culinary TV series and Foucault’s signature dish, a fluffy, deluxe “Dutch Baby” pancake topped with apples, aged cheddar, maple syrup and pork belly, has become famous beyond the Ottawa area.
As well, Foucault was among the roster of Canadian celebrity chefs featured on two seasons of the Food Network Canada TV show Wall of Chefs.
Foucault also briefly had a second small restaurant in Gatineau called Odile. But Foucault closed it in the summer of 2013, 15 months after it opened, because she was overworked and uncompromising about the quality of the food at both restaurants.
On Wednesday, she said she feels similarly now with Edgar about to close.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist and I want to do things right.”
At one point on tripadvisor.com, Edgar was ranked first and Odile was ranked second among Gatineau’s 200-plus restaurants.
When Edgar opened, it seated just 13 and Foucault rented its space. After a dozen years, she had bought the property and enlarged Edgar to seat 35 indoors by taking over the neighbouring space. Last year she enlarged Edgar’s patio to seat 40, making for 75 seats total.
She said she hopes “something nice” will take Edgar’s place, for the good of its surrounding Val-Tétreau neighbourhood.
If Edgar’s successor wants to copy Foucault’s formula and even its dishes, that would be fine, she added. “Recipes are recipes, but it’s the person who cooks them who makes the difference,” she said.
Edgar employs more than 20 people, and Foucault said that after the idea to close first came to her a month ago, her biggest concern was the prospects of her staff. But Foucault, mindful of the ongoing labour shortage in the restaurant industry, said she’s already received emails from restaurants looking to hire her workers.
Among the food lovers with Dutch Baby-sized holes in their hearts is Ottawa restaurateur Steve Beckta, who responded on Instagram to Foucault’s news: “This is so sad, yet so inspiring…taking the time and space you need for yourself right now. You have been such a force in our industry Marysol, and Edgar and Odile have such a huge place in so many hearts.”
Also among the scores of well-wishers was Dominique Dufour, chef-owner of Gray Jay Hospitality in Ottawa, who wrote: “Such bittersweet news. We are happy for you but there is now a big hole in the culinary scene of Ottawa/Gatineau. You are a legend, thank you for inspiring.”
While Foucault kidded that she is retiring at 45, she said she hasn’t ruled out cooking for customers again at some point, perhaps at pop-up events that until now she has been too busy to do.
She also noted that she has been approached over the years to write a cookbook and that she enjoyed being on TV.
She said her boyfriend has told her: “Who are you kidding? You will not be able to stay home and do nothing.”
“But he will lock the door,” Foucault said.
Edgar is not the only highly regarded Ottawa-area restaurant closing this summer.
The Somerset Street West dim sum restaurant Hung Sum closed last weekend, after five years at that location. In Riverside South, Zizis Kitchen, a Mediterranean restaurant opened more than eight years ago by chef Ferdi Ozkul, is to close Aug. 21.
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