Michele Mercuri: XO’s Revolutionary Chef

One bite into Michele Mercuri’s slow-cooked baked egg and you will know he means business. Simply put: Mercuri is revolutionizing XO, the opulent restaurant – think vaulted ceilings, colonnades, red velvet – in the Hôtel Le St-James.

The 30-year-old chef, who’s been in the kitchen since age 14, has rethought XO’s menu – and its philosophy, offering affordable prix fix lunches (about $25) and weekend brunches (mains, $10 – $22). Which means that you too can enjoy his otherworldly eggs soon. We caught up with Mercuri for a brief Q + A.

Do you cook at home?
Yes, I cook comfort food, like pad Thai and the timeless favourite, grilled cheese.

What’s your favourite ingredient these days?

Italian black truffle from Umbria. Its incredible adaptability and flavour enhance everything from a Gaspard piglet to a chocolate and brazil nut dessert.

What’s your favourite low-key restaurant in Montreal?

I have two: Provisions on St-Laurent, and Mas Cuisine on Wellington.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten in your life?
It was at a restaurant called Le Calandre, in Padu, in Italy, where I ate a saffron and black licorice risotto. The magic of that unexpected flavour combination, paired with the fact that it was my first trip alone, made it an unforgettable experience.

What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?

The Immersion Circulator by PolyScience polyscience.com. It’s a tool that enables me to cook ingredients at extremely low temperatures, which is a technique that’s central to my culinary approach.

Isa Tousignant

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