Café Owner, Plateau
At The Run-In, a favourite spot of ours to meet up has always been Le Couteau/The Knife. It is owned by a charming, well-spirited man whom for the longest time we referred to as purely “The Dapper Man”. It was a very fitting name, but we soon discovered that it wasn’t his birth given name. Running into Chris outside of the cafe was a really great chance to see the passion that he has for his product, service and the city of Montreal.
Chris initially got into coffee as a hobby. He’s not one to be found serving a sub-par quality good, even if that service is brunch at home. During his time working in film production he began researching coffee due to the worsening flavor of the coffee being produced by his at-home run-of-the-mill espresso machine. Chris remembers the machine, “I had one of those you know crappy, $100 espresso machines on my counter. Just cause you know, when you’re setting up a house that’s one of those things that you need…Kind of faux fancy, for all my cappuccino making for entertaining.” After research, hours on the internet and an unrelenting curious mind he realized a good quality machine and grinder was going to be an investment. “And so I pressed ‘buy’ on a grinder and espresso machine about 2 weeks later for about $1000 and went ‘oh my god, what have I done?’ as soon as I clicked it.” And this is how Chris’s love affair with coffee began.
Chris had moved from Vancouver to Montreal about 10 years ago initially for film. “I worked a bunch of different contracts out here, both pre and post production and just never enjoyed it. Working in film just dissolves your life entirely, it just ate it all up.” In between his contract Chris found himself dedicating more and more time to learning the art of coffee. He needed a way out of film and coffee was it. Chris did much of his intense hands-on training during a year spent working at Cafe Myriad. “Then I got myself connected to the few people in town that were doing the serious coffee here and just went from there.” “I knew that this style of coffee was up-and-coming and there were opportunities in it, as there were only a couple of places in montreal that were doing it at the time.” All reason pointed to this as a solid decision, “Little did I know, cafes are a great way to lose money as well! The joke goes, the way to become a millionaire restaurateur is start with 2 million.”
“My ideas of what my cafe would be are very close to what it has turned out to be.” From his experience working in other cafes Chris knew what he wanted for his space. He wanted something that was community based, unintimidating, and had a slower pace. “I like seeing that its a place where people can connect in person because I think life is being directed away from that a little bit, we’re all getting a little bit more isolated.” Coming from the hobby of coffee Chris didn’t realize how much he’d love the customer service aspect of the cafe. The ability to improve someones day with a cup of coffee and instantly see their satisfaction is a really rewarding experience for him.
The design of Le Couteau was the mastermind of Chris himself. Much of it was influenced by the neighborhood places that Chris was hanging around all of the time. “I was hanging around Bily Kun a lot at the time and I ended up with painted brick and tiny tiles.” Everything in the cafe was chosen by Chris; it’s a well curated selection of finishes, objects, and materials that add up to a space that is “that is a little bit more high end and less hipster”. The space is open and inviting.
“When I opened people asked me if I had designed the space myself and I answered no, because, you know, I had worked with a carpenter guy and he proposed me ideas and I picked. And then my carpenter said ‘Well what do you think designers do?’ So I said, ‘Oh, ok I guess I designed the space.’ So ever since then I’ve been the designer. I was really happy that I found the chandeliers. Those are from the Marché St-Michel, I went up there one day and found them. Those sort of things, those little details are the things that I really really like.”
Chris had sought out to create a neighborhood-y spot where people could gather and you could get to know the people that worked there. It was by happy accident that he ended up with a place in the very neighborhood that he lived. A neighborhood that he is very familiar with and very fond of. “I’ve basically been in the same neighborhood the entire time I’ve lived here.” Having his cafe in an area with so many of his favourite haunts was a perfect fit. “You have really great places around here like Bily Kun, and Le Boudoir and The Baptist, I’m only talking bars here, I’m building a great reputation.” The reputation of this dapper cafe owner is far from tarnished. We have taken those recommendations to heart, anyone that serves coffee as smooth and flavorful as Chris is sure to know his liquid consumables.
TRI: What are your guilty pleasures?
“Anyone that has dated me will tell you that I am utterly addicted to crunchy cheesies and ice cream. Cheesies, not the bullshit puffy ones, but the crunchy ones cheetos. It’s cheese covered crack. Also, sweet and salty popcorn. PBR in the park is also a guilty indulgence, and you know, I don’t start with that but once you’re at the dep after the first round of drinks has run out the PBR starts looking really good. My restaurant version of crunchy cheetos would be Mount-Royal Hot Dog. It’s just so convenient for me.”
TRI: What was your most memorable Run-In?
“One of my best run-ins was a really great conversation that I had with Rob Corddry at Flocon Espresso one day. Rob Corddry is from the daily show and Hot Tub Time Machine and a lot of other comedies, he was in town shooting a movie. I’m very Canadian in that I don’t usually approach celebrities, especially having worked in movies and stuff. ‘Cause there’s this thing when you’re on the crew versus the cast, I mean they’re there all the time but you just kind of ignore them and talk to the make-up girl instead which is the cool thing to do. But I talked to him for awhile; we chatted. Then another owner of a different cafe came in and so I talked to her for awhile and Rob went and sat down. On the way out I passed his table and I said ‘Bye Rob, nice talking to you’ and he said ‘Bye Chris, nice to meet you!’ I was like ‘Oh my god, you remember my name!” and I mean it was only 10 minutes later but still!”