This year’s theme for Black History Month is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.” As part of the festivities, we’re pleased to focus the spotlight on Montreal’s Resto Palme.
To co-owner Lee-Ann Millaire-LaFleur and head chef/owner Ralph Alerte, Black History Month not only means a proud recognition of Palme as a successful, black-owned business but also a part of a greater and much-needed acknowledgement of black representation in the cuisine and restaurant world. This is in addition to the recognition of their personal success as flourishing restaurateurs.
Bringing the Caribbean to Montreal
Self-described as a Caribbean restaurant with a menu reflecting a wide range of cultural diversity, Palme offers a delicious blend of tropical food from around the world based on their favourite saying: “If a country has a palm tree, we take inspiration from it.”
As Montrealers, Millaire-LaFleur and Alerte have always been proud of their city’s openness and inclusiveness to its many cultures and cuisines. And they have reflected this cultural openness by integrating it into their recipes while sharing food traditions from the Caribbean. This has resulted in the creation of unique tastes of their very own.
Diversity and inclusion is in everything they do. As a couple, both Millaire-LaFleur and Alerte believe that eating food from other cultures is a step to wanting to know more about those cultures, creating more understanding of other people and fostering a climate of appreciation for diversity and things that are different.
Their Griot salad (Griot being a Haitian dish consisting of pork shoulder marinated in citrus, first braised and then fried) showcases the complexity of flavours, preparation, and techniques involved in Caribbean cuisine. It’s also a dish able to rival any haute-cuisine recipes found in high-dining restaurants.
Advice for Success
For a restaurant that loves and thrives on the interaction it has with its community, Palme saw a slowing of business and walk-in traffic during the pandemic. However, Alerte notes that adopting social media and delivery apps not only helped them to “put bread on the table”, but also assisted them with expanding their exposure and visibility to a wider clientele and audience.
They now deliver to neighbourhoods that otherwise would never pass by their restaurant. Millaire-LaFleur notes “…the delivery apps were a huge help in making a ‘first introduction’ for us to a broader spectrum of clients. With our online orders presence, once we reopened after the first wave, we had a lot of people come in saying ‘Hey, I’ve been eating your food religiously in takeout or online delivery but now I can come and eat at your restaurant.’”
Believing in Your Dream
Millaire-LaFleur says her advice for new restaurants lies in “selling yourself and your idea to a lot of people for people to understand your concepts, mission, or your vision. And if it has to do with your culture and understanding who you are, not to give up on that dream to explain what it is, but to find new ways of selling it and yourself.”
“If they don’t understand it, don’t give up but find new ways of selling yourself. Don’t let someone that closed the door on you stop you from going forward. Because it just means that they didn’t understand what you were trying to accomplish. It just proves that you need to keep on going because people are not aware of something that you think is important. Never give up.”
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