One of Montreal’s leading organic farms, the Ferme du Zéphyr of Senneville now has its own café where owners Anne Durand and Stephen Homer serve what they grow. Now, in addition to offering “organic food for passionate cooks,” Anne and Steven have a place where they can serve the people, and their very own neighbourhood, too.
“We want to be able to do things that are better for the planet, but give people options,” says Stephen. “Our menu is eclectic, with fresh, home cooked style dishes, with year-round standards and seasonal surprises.”
The corner space on Sherbrooke Street was a bakery for 15 years, and so even though pastries are not really part of Anne and Stephen’s at-home cuisine, they didn’t want to disappoint the neighbourhood by eliminating them altogether. Steven elucidates, “We’re not absolute purists. We figure that a scone is definitely not good for you physically, but it can be good for the spirit.”
Anne once had a café in Paris, and leaving behind her career as a translator, she has fulfilled her long-standing desire to break into restaurant ground in Montreal. Café Zéphyr gives Stephen the opportunity to share his passion for organic vegetables and local ingredients — “I like to cook, I like to eat,” he states.
Ferme du Zéphyr is known for heirloom vegetables, and Stephen and Anne work with their chef, Marc-André Cyr, to devise recipes that distinguish the personalities of their produce. Chef Marc-André, a baker who gained gourmet café experience at Olive and Gourmando, “is an innovative, resourceful and disciplined cook; we are learning from him,” Stephen reveals.
The menu celebrates the simple sophistication — without being fancy — of wonderful, and accessible, flavour profiles. Take for example Banh mi, a Vietnamese vegetable and chicken sauté dish not available anywhere else in the neighbourhood; underneath its listing on the chalkboard menu, it says, “Look, you can do this at home!”
Stephen’s favourite vegetable is the Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin because it is not stringy, like other pumpkins. With Café Zéphyr serving Winter Luxury pumpkin pies, more and more of these babies will surely be saved from Jack-o-lantern fates.
Steven is a wildlife biologist who grew up next to a dairy farm in New Brunswick. He has always been an environmentalist at heart and worked as a wildlife photojournalist for 20 years before becoming a farmer. Stephen says he “felt like farming was practical, applied biology.”
Stephen knows local organic food tends to be more expensive than conventional food, primarily because of the manpower and tender loving it requires. Also, out of respect for biodiversity and curtailing monoculture, organic farmers usually maintain many different kinds of crops, which keeps farmers especially busy. “Farmers are notoriously bad marketers,” Stephen quips. This is changing though, with more partnering-up, collaborations and community-supported agriculture. Stephen is confident in an ever-increasing demand for local organic food, as people generally become more aware of their connection with food, nature and their environment.