Hundreds of pounds of real, creamy butter.
That’s what makes his savoury and sugar pies stand out from the rest, Port Coquitlam chef Enrick Gagnon says.
And, this weekend, for the 29th annual Festival du Bois, Gagnon will have more than 500 of them for sale — either whole or by the slice — at the francophone fete in Coquitlam.
Gagnon started working in the pie business eight years ago after seeing the lack of French-Canadian fare in Metro Vancouver.
The North Vancouver resident opened a shop on Commercial Drive to create the confections, “inspired” by his own family recipes.
After all, he grew up around traditional, hearty food in northern Quebec as both his grandfather and uncle were chefs.
Refusing to cut back or substitute other ingredients, Gagnon set out to make his scrumptious pies that anyone could pick up from the frozen food aisle in the store or at a farmers’ market: tourtières, beef bourguignons, vegetable, wild salmon and chicken.
To round out his menu, he also whipped up creamy maple sugar pies (tarte au sucre), deep dish tourtières from Saguenay, cretons (savoury pork pate), Duck a l’Orange (savoury duck pate) and fruit ketchup.
But when his Vancouver kitchen burned down, Gagnon scouted for a new space and, with the help of an acquaintance, located a 2,500-sq. ft. area to lease in an industrial strip on McLean Avenue in Port Coquitlam.
Today, with the help of seven staff and a delivery driver, Gagnon and his team pump out some 100,000 pies a year for retail outlets and farmers’ markets as well as special orders — all at premium quality.
“With these products, you can’t cheat because the customer knows,” he said during a tour of his business last week. “There’s a difference in the feel and taste when you have the best and you make it from scratch. And I think we’re well priced for what we deliver. You get what you pay for.”
Gagnon said he won’t vary his tourtières or creamy maple sugar pies for Festival du Bois: They’ll contain the same goodness he sells elsewhere with a mix of pork, potatoes, cloves and cinnamon for the tourtières, and Quebecois syrup for the sugar treats.
Gagnon’s company, Chef Enrick Food Corp., last served up the pies at Festival du Bois in 2013 and “during those years I wasn’t part of it, I was very sad,” he said, “but it was just a matter of time before we recollaborated.”
He added, “It’s very exciting to be invited back to the biggest francophone festival in western Canada and I’m proud to be associated with it.”
Johanne Dumas, executive director of the Societe francophone de Maillardville, which organizes the weekend party, said Maillardville volunteers made the pies during the gap and “they did an amazing job but eventually they just weren’t able to continue,” she said.
Other French-Canadian food on site will include: poutine, maple taffy and French Lumberjack Ale by Yellow Dog Brewing Company of Port Moody.
Meanwhile, Dumas said Festival du Bois is three weeks later this year in an attempt to gain better weather.
It also coincides with spring break in School District 43, which she hopes will entice more families to check out the entertainment in the Grand Chapiteau (main stage); Petit Chapiteau (children’s tent); and across the street at Mackin House.
Among the top Quebecois acts performing are: Le Vent du Nord (pictured above), Les Chauffeurs a pied and Bon Debarras.
“We’re hoping the move of dates will inspire families looking for enjoyable and interesting things to do over the break to come to the festival,” Dumas said.
• Festival du Bois kicks off Wednesday night with Diner en Plaid — a twist on Diner en Blanc — at the John B Pub (1000 Austin Ave., Coquitlam) at 7 p.m., featuring the sounds of Bon Debarras. Guests are encouraged to wear plaid shirts. And, on Friday night, a contra dance with The Sybaritic String Band is at Mackin Park.