Restaurant Carte Blanche
By Valérie Guerriat

A Lifetime Partnership

Partners in both love and in business, Sylvie Vioux and André Loiseau may have fundamentally opposite temperaments, but they complement each other perfectly. Talkative and charming, the partners in crime are self-assured and honest as they tell the story of how they met and opened Carte Blanche.

"We've been married for 22 years. We met in Paris in the '90s," says Sylvie. "I was with US Airways for 10 years, having built up solid experience in customer service, while André was working crazy hours in the kitchens of the Senate. He had an extremely demanding schedule at the time, which really held us back from enjoying our new life together."

When Sylvie became sick and fell into a coma, the couple had to rethink what they were doing. They knew they wanted a family and a better quality of life that seemed to elude them Europe. "We gave ourselves the opportunity to get what we wanted by coming to Quebec," says Sylvie.

You know, life, it doesn't always work out as predicted. You need a plan B and even a plan C! You have to be resilient and flexible. - André Loiseau, owner
André Loiseau, owner of Carte Blanche, likes to have a plan B and even a plan C!
Owner André Loiseau has a plan B and even a plan C!

A Resilient Spirit

At first, the couple wanted to open a delicatessen, along the lines of L'Europea. They went hunting for a location in Old Montreal, but soon realized that the right kind of place would blow a big hole in their savings. "So we came up with a whole new business plan and we settled for a smaller space, full of potential, on Ontario Street, right next to a bar with a somewhat colourful clientele," says André. "We cheerfully became neighbours with prostitutes, transvestites and other transients of the bar next door. The neighbourhood's changed a lot since then."

Fast forward to 2016 and Carte Blanche is going strong. For André, the key to success is being consistent, rational and disciplined. "We're not huge romantics; we work with passion and discipline. That's what ensures the longevity of any business, in my opinion. The way we see it, it's a bubble that can burst just like that. We love our job, because we know that it means hard work and sacrifice," he says.

Sylvie and André decide to become a BYOB establishment in 2013. According to Andrew, it freed up their workload so that Sylvie could go back to work elsewhere. "It's certainly breathed new life into our marriage and it's helped the restaurant. You know, working with your partner, it can put your relationship at risk! But thanks to our discipline and resilience, everything's turned out okay! If we're still together today, it's because we're solid as a rock!"

Since the couple 'democratized' access to the restaurant by getting rid of the wine menu, they noticed an increase in a younger demographic freqenting the restaurant. "It makes us really happy to see our daughter and her friends able to afford evenings out at the restaurant," says André, "because, above all else, we do this for our family."

André Loiseau, owner of Carte Blanche, works with edible flowers to add colour to his dishes.
André Loiseau works with edible flowers to add colour to his dishes. (photo credit: courtesy of Carte Blanche)

In the Kitchen

"I like the classic dishes and presentation. As for Sylvie, she's always on the lookout for current trends. Together, we reach a balance," saya André. "We have such different backgrounds, but our contrasting experiences complement one another. I'm glad that my wife is able to look at things from the customer's perspective, an external input. It enriches our approach. Sometimes we yell, but first and foremost we admire each other."

On the food side, Carte Blanche offers a menu of reworked classics, made with local ingredients. "Quebec has provided for us all these years; now it's our turn to provide for it by encouraging local producers," says André.

The restaurant focuses on a bistronomic menu; flavours and colours take pride of place on the plate. They adapt to the customer and offer vegetarian options. "We're on the maple route and we showcase alternative products, such as seal and kangaroo," says André. "No matter what you order, you'll still receive the highest quality possible. What's important for us is to indulge the customers, who honour us by sitting down at our table. We work hard every day to maintain a relationship of respect with them, but above all, have fun."

On the menu at Carte Blanche: a stacked pie, topped with a fragrant basil leaf.
A stacked pie, topped with a fragrant basil leaf. (photo credit: courtesy of Carte Blanche)
Carte Blanche looks out onto Ontario Street.
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