David McMillan Joe Beef Liverpool House Montreal restaurant industry

David McMillan’s last supper

“I guess fame and fortune in one’s chosen field isn’t enough.”

And like that, Mr. David “Joe Beef” McMillan has taken his final reservation. It wasn’t such a shock that one of Montreal’s most revered restaurateurs decided to quit the cutthroat business that he helped create; what was shocking was the manner in which he managed to insult everyone that helped get him to the truffle-shaving-for-Toronto-tourists level in the first place. Torontonians don’t know why they think asparagus is the apex of culinary arts. It’s not their fault. 

But it wasn’t just McMillan’s clientele. Neither the staff nor the industry itself evaded his forked tongue. I guess fame and fortune in one’s chosen field isn’t enough. Having a best-selling cookbook and becoming buddies with Anthony Bourdain. Not enough.

David McMillan Montreal restaurants Joe Beef
Revered Montreal restaurateur David McMillan quit the cutthroat business that he helped create.

A few years ago, I happened by Liverpool House one evening. A convoy of blacked-out luxury SUVs was parked out front. I wondered who was dining there, and later discovered it was Trudeau and Obama. Now, I’m not prone to pride, but I must admit I felt somehow honoured that the two hippest world leaders since JFK and Trudeau Sr. would have a summit in our local restaurant. Not enough for McMillan. He still had to wash the dishes.

Barack Obama Justin Trudeau Joe Beef

I don’t usually do this — say something disparaging. But today, there are a dozen places within walking distance that I’d rather eat at. Montreal’s fine dining establishments have greatly improved since Joe Beef was considered a destination. Most of them are too refined to simply slop a slab of meat on a plate and pray to hell that the table is plied with enough wine to make a mediocre meal go unnoticed — not to mention the cheque that will leave everyone choking. Who knew McMillan’s last act of seasoning would be salting the earth? ■

This excerpt from Play Recent originally appeared in the December issue of Cult MTL. 

For previous editions of Play Recent, please click here.