By Sarah Brown
He ran his own successful catering business but, most recently, was known as the chef dreaming up the delectable dishes to complement Véronique Rivest’s wines at the critically acclaimed Soif wine bar. Now Étienne Cuerrier is teaming up with his wife, Myriam Campeau, to open Meat Press Creative Charcuterie and Sandwich Shop in Hintonburg. After a whirlwind six-week reno, the new business is set to open in time for the popular Tastes of Wellington West event on Sept. 19 — perfect timing!
A very busy Étienne Cuerrier took time out from his hectic schedule to show off his 16-seat charcuterie and sandwich shop — and to talk about some of the surprises he has in store for Ottawa’s more adventurous carnivores.
Who’s running the show?
It’s a family operation — me, my wife Myriam [Campeau], and our kids. My five-year-old daughter says she’s going to be the sweets advisor. She already makes fruit rollups and candies!
Why open up your own business?
When you work at a restaurant, you have impossible hours. It’s hard to find time for your home life. Owning Meat Press will allow me to set my hours better and to be truly creative because I won’t be restricted by a menu.
Any reason you chose Hintonburg?
I grew up in this neighbourhood and love it here, so when the city’s urban planners rezoned this building, I jumped at the chance to open Meat Press. The area reminds me of a little of the Bronx or Brooklyn — it’s part of the city but also not quite ‘of the city.’ It soothes me. There’s not as much pressure here.
Are you worried about being slightly off the main drag?
Not at all. We’re so close that you can actually see Meat Press from Wellington Street. And once people find us, they’ll be back. We’re launching at the Tastes of Wellington West event on Sept. 19, so that will be huge for us. Oh, and being almost right across from the PranaShanti Yoga Centre means over 150 people walk or drive by us every day.
There have been rumours – is Meat Press a lunch counter? A restaurant? A take-out spot?
I have so many plans! It will be all of these things. I’ll definitely be doing sandwiches seven days a week as soon as we open in September, but we have applied for a liquor license so we hope to begin serving dinner a couple of nights a week by December. On the retail side, I’ll be making sausages and charcuterie. We’ll sell our meats at Meat Press, but also through other retail food stores around town.
Tell me more about the charcuterie at Meat Press.
Charcuterie is important, but we won’t just be focusing on dried meats and sausages. I am picturing selling whole ducks and stuffed chickens for takeout. I would love to sell sweetbreads — that’s something people don’t have time to prepare at home — and maybe marinated duck hearts and crispy pork belly. In the fall hunting season, we’ll be working with duck and venison.
Okay, we’re salivating. Now tell us more about the sandwiches.
We’ll work at a table by the window so people can see everything getting made. I plan to do two types of hot sandwiches a day — roasted meats like a thick-sliced porcetta or a pressed duck.
And the parts that aren’t meaty?
We make all our own pickles and vinegars and bread. I’ve been experimenting with apple yeast and grape yeast as bread starters. The apple yeast gives the bread a slightly acidic taste which goes really well with pork, while the grape is sweeter and matches with beef and duck.
We’ve been making our own fresh cheeses for fun, experimenting with the easier ones like mozzarella, ricotta, and cheddar. For drinks, I’ve been making my own grape soda and root beer.
Okay, let’s end the interview with a couple of sample sandwiches to get readers in the mood. Can you describe a few you have planned?
Porchetta with pickled brussel sprouts, crunchy barbecue sauce, and lemon-parsley; a smoked brisket with fried shallots, sunchoke chips, aioli, and celery leaf; and a smoked duck with creamy slaw, duck neck flakes, and ramp leaf pesto. A vegetarian sandwich might be tofu bacon with diced apples, soft cheese, watercress, and dry figs.