“I’ll tell you the story of how I started cooking,” says Felix Arsenault. This is just one of the stories I heard during my delightful visit to La Grub à Félix in the Evangeline region of West Prince. Felix knew he wanted to be a cook at an early age. “My cousin and I had cooking contests. I was about 13 years old. We decided to see who could make the best apple pie,” Felix explains, and goes on to say his cousin’s pies were excellent. “Mine…the crust was like a frisbee! That was my motivation, I would learn how to bake and cook.”
In 1987 Felix Arsenault indeed became a Red Seal Chef. His story continues, “I quit school at grade nine. I tried my hand at many things; farming, fishing, nothing really interested me. Later, I heard through Holland College I could go back to school for upgrading. I heard they offered a cooking course. I was so excited! I told my mom, and you know what she said to me? She told me ‘Men don’t cook. Women do that.’” Today, at 94, Mrs. Arsenault is very proud of what Felix has accomplished. “It proves that you can do it,” remarks Felix. “Whatever you want, you can do it.” There were ten students in that cooking course, and Felix was the only male.
After a thirty year career cooking for the PEI Youth Centre, Felix retired and began his own business. He has never been happier or busier. Felix and his wife Alice are pure Acadians. “Both sides, his family and mine, were Acadian,” Alice explains to me. And proud they are. Felix loves to cook traditional Acadian food—rapure, meat pies and potted meat. I learned rapure is prepared with grated potatoes, spices, flour and fried pork cubes, and it cooks for about two hours.
“The younger generations want to eat Acadian food, but it takes a lot of work. They don’t have the time or patience for that,” he says. “They just want to buy it. Then they started asking me for potted meat. This is something we never ate. So I started asking some people in the community what you put in potted meat. I would take ideas from them and put it together. Then I went around to several neighbours and friends, asking them to taste my potted meat. I took their advice and finally all my tasters agreed, this was good potted meat! So that’s the recipe I use today.”
Since buying a food truck in 2019, Felix thought he’d try egg rolls. Something different. Folks went crazy. “I can make 1200 egg rolls in a day, and I have,” he laughs. “And when in high demand, I bake 100 meat pies a day too.”
La Grub à Félix products can be purchased at the Tignish Co-op, and his now famous potted meat, at the Wellington Co-op. “Some people call ahead and pick up their orders directly. When I have enough orders, I also deliver to a common location in Summerside and Charlottetown. Social media has been amazing! It’s crazy.”
After having the great pleasure of meeting and spending time in the kitchen of Felix Arsenault, I can say he is “the salt of the earth.” Warm, funny and passionate. And his Acadian food has just enough salt as well. It’s fabulous. Call 432-4345 or follow La Grub à Félix on Facebook. Bon appetite!