For the Love of Food: A new take on classic French

When I was starting out in the restaurant business over 20 years ago, the teachers were mostly European chefs.

When I was starting out in the restaurant business over 20 years ago, the teachers were mostly European chefs; therefore we were trained in Classical French. In French cuisine, it’s all about cooking with butter, heavy creams and thickening sauces and soups with flour.

I have grown a lot as a chef in these past years and have had the privilege to work with and learn from an array of people and chefs. With the new knowledge, I am constantly learning new tricks of the trade.

Over the past five years, I have noticed that there has been an increase in allergies, especially to wheat, soy and milk. As well, more and more people are choosing a healthier approach to eating.

Trying to cater to these dietary restrictions and allergies has required me to become more adventurous and to abandon the French ways of cooking in which I was taught.

A great alternative that I have been applying to my cooking is new method of thickening.

As I mentioned, sauce is usually thickened with flour, but with more wheat intolerances around these days I have started thickening my sauces and soups with aborio rice. It provides the same consistency as the flour but without the wheat or gluten.

At Birchwood Restaurant, we will try our hardest to accommodate all dietary needs. Most items on the menu are gluten- and/or lactose-free as we try not to add any unnecessary ingredients.

Below is a modified version of a basic white sauce, or a béchamel sauce, that you can serve to any wheat-intolerant guest with no worries.

Béchamel sauce


2 onions, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic

1 cup of arborio rice

1 cup of white wine

1.5 litres of water

2 cups of homo milk

2.5 cups of whipped cream

season to preferred taste


Sweat onions and garlic until translucent , add white wine.

Bring mixture up to a simmer and add arborio rice, stir until rice is all coated. Add remaining liquid. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Puree mixture in food processor or blender until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve to capture all remaining pieces of rice.

To this recipe you can add any type of cheese from gruyere to cheddar for mac and cheese, to cheese fondue, or to any pasta.

Marc is the Executive Chef and a co-owner of Birchwood Restaurant in Invermere. He can be reached at