Long before the arrival of specialty channels and “trend” gourmet publications, Jehane Benoît, grande dame of Canadian cuisine, helped train whole generations of cooks through her books and radio and television programs.
With training from the Cordon Bleu in Paris and a degree in food chemistry from la Sorbonne under her belt by the age of 21, Jehane Benoît didn’t take long to make her mark on the food scene in her native Montreal. Around 1933, she founded Montreal’s Salad Bar, one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Canada, and she opened the very first secular cooking school in Quebec, Le Fumet de la vieille France, where she taught thousands of students over nearly ten years.
In 1941, she published her first cookbook, Chocolate Around the Clock, which was followed by more than thirty other publications throughout her career, including the iconic Encyclopedia of Canadian Cooking, which to date has sold over two million copies. Starting in 1943, Ms. Benoît also became a well-known radio personality by appearing on various successful programs, including Radio-Canada’s Fémina. Her fame spread with her television debut around 1952, as she become a regular on various shows such as Femme d’aujourd’hui on Radio-Canada and Take 30 on CBC.
A woman ahead of her time, Ms. Benoît readily integrated new technologies in her cooking, becoming an early adopter of the microwave oven. She was a long-time promoter and spokesperson for microwave cooking, and wrote a series of cookbooks with specially adapted recipes. For her contribution to the culinary arts in Canada, Ms. Benoît was awarded the Order of Canada in 1973.
Library and Archives Canada invites you to read the article on Jehane Benoît in the Bon appétit! virtual exhibit (archived website) to learn more about this remarkable woman. And be sure to find out about the published works of this grande dame of Canadian cuisine!