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Inspiring Conversations with Alex Lacasse

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Lacasse.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I grew up in the deep countryside of Quebec (eastern Canada). My family is mostly composed of farmers and hunters where at a young age, I learned about very many traditions on how to celebrate the land with farming methods and how to cure and preserve everything to be fed thru the winter. but my culinary awakening really happened with my godfather Emilio. Emilio grew up in La Campania (IT) and immigrated to Canada where he married my father’s sister Johanne. They lived across the street from us so I spend majority of my childhood running over to their side of the street. In the morning Emilio taught me how to pour a shot of espresso, he taught me how to make wine from grapes, age proscuito, prepare an octopus on Christmas and so on. By the time I had my first babysitter I knew I wanted to be a chef, and my dream was to open a seafood restaurant. Fast forward to being 18 years old when I got the chance to go study culinary arts in San Francisco.

For me, San Francisco did not just teach me how to conduct myself in the world as a gay man, but it taught me seven different ways to cook asparagus depending on what time of the season it is and depending on the time of the year, one of these two lessons always ends up being more important than the other one. I devoured everything that I could in California, I had never fell in love so hard with anything else other and simple seasonal food. Last year in 2019 I made it to Paris and London to go stage at a few of my favourite restaurants that I had always dreamed of stepping foot into but unfortunately, on my way to London Heathrow I received this email that proved to me that the food industry was not going to be the same for a while, I had lost my job, restaurants where forced to close and I would have to figure out what I wanted to do when I would land in LA jobless. The answer was simple, I was just going to keep cooking, everyday, take the time to learn anything that I had always wanted to learn and share it with the world (only via the internet of course). Eventually I found a way to make ends meet with private chef jobs and teaching cooking classes on Zoom but my desire is to be able to keep sharing my passion for food and empower people to feel like they can easily learn how to make restaurant quality food in their apt.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has been terrible, first of all, cooking was the only way I was able to forget that I was a little closeted gay boy, I could go thru service for 14 hours and never think about how gay I was. So cooking became my one and only way to cope with my emotions which is terrible and exhausting. Then came the pressure from my first mentor, she put so much energy into teaching me everything she knew that I never wanted to disappoint her, I was going to sweat bleed and not sleep as long as I could please her, she was the number 1 priority in my life and once again I was just not taking the time to address anything that was going on in my life, I would just forget about it by putting my head down and working and learning as much as I could, I had convinced myself that I had to become a Chef de cuisine before I was 25 otherwise I was just a failure. My body started giving up, I could not swallow food anymore, I could not go on runs, my body was simply only in overdraft everything would exhaust me.

Then I took a step back, decided to not be a manager or chef or whatever you wanna call it and I would just be a line cook and have fun, cause that’s all I could do! and those were the best days where I just made a shit ton of pasta and had real weekend where I would take the time to go out and eat anything I could find in sf, fancy stupid tasting menus, pupusas, tripe soup, I was back hungrier than ever! and then that way, I actually made it to be a CDC before 25 and when I went to that service of my 25th birthday, I remember feeling like none of that mattered and just to keep making food that tastes good! Now, well, I don’t even want to get into it, the current struggle is. To not being able to pay rent, not being able to make friends and connection in the food industry yet not knowing if the food industry is ever going to change or not…

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
My business is me. I’m not an LLC and nor do I employ people but I do know that this business is closer to what I want for myself much more than going back to another restaurant. Right now, it looks like I’m teaching people how to cook delicious food via social media, I take the time to share the things that I really enjoy cooking, I do cater and love doing so but at the moment, it is simply not possible anymore. I plan on doing many more fundraisers as the new year approaches to collect money for important causes while using my skillset.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
I have a very hard time seeing the food industry going in any direction at the moment. I hope for it to be able to employ people again because as so many are jobless and I hope for it to move towards paying hard-working cooks what they deserve and to offer healthcare for all. I hope that collectively after Covid is handled that everyone in LA stops eating at sweet greens and decides to spend their money where their words are, smaller restaurants, family restaurants, old restaurants, not so shiny decor restaurant, no neon sign the front restaurant, no post mate available kind of places.

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