France and French cuisine have inspired chefs the world over, with many setting up shop in the iconic gastronomic cities of Paris and Lyon. For chef Martine Bauer, her journey began on a small island far off the coast of Madagascar — from there, she made her way to the city of lights. Though chef Martine eventually said goodbye to Parisian life, she found a new home in Toronto where she has fostered a world of growth at her illustrious French-inspired restaurant, Pompette.
Alongside co-founders Maxime Hoerth and Jonathan Bauer, Martine has successfully infused France’s rich culture into a cozy restaurant at the corner of College and Clinton Street. Throughout its time, Pompette has grown into sister establishments including Bar Pompette and Pompette Bakery. Even still, the restaurant continues to reach new heights, most recently being recommended in the Toronto Michelin Guide. No matter what path Martine and her team take, there is sure to be laughter, reflection and fresh croissants along the way. Read our interview to learn more about chef Martine, Pompette and the culinary journey of a lifetime.
From the island to the big city
Like any great chef, Martine’s journey did not come without some sacrifice — something she is no stranger too. “Coming from my tiny Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean — moving to France was a huge step and change,” says Martine. “Everything was new to me — I needed to learn how to use the metro, get use to the weather, new culture and the working environment.”
While the ways of French culture became second nature to Martine, she longed for a new challenge and adventure. “I moved from Mauritius to Paris with my husband — a big city where everyone and everything goes fast — moving to Toronto was another major step as we looked to open our business at that time.” Leaving behind friends, family, your comfort zone can be daunting and not for the faint of heart. “We left everything behind us, and we are happy,” says Martine. “Toronto is a multicultural city that reminds me a lot of my island, which make me feel like home. Even if we miss our friends and family either from Mauritius or France, Toronto is home now.”
France as a proving ground
Many of the world’s most renowned chefs have either studied or worked in a French kitchen with the goal of perfecting their craft. “Travelling is always inspiring. In France I was able to work in French restaurant and build classic techniques and the basis of cooking,” says Martine. “When working as a private chef, I learned never to cook the same dish twice unless requested. Always try new tastes and flavors, and be very open to any critics, requests and listen to the guests.”
“I can’t compare French cuisine to Canadian cuisine, France is the birthplace of gastronomy — an old country full of stories, repertoire and great chefs,” says Martine. “The cooking style is framed in a good way though — to preserve traditions in all these stories.” Apart of Martine’s journey in growing Pompette is ensuring she maintains a high level of tradition in balance with innovation. “I do tend to add a little of my background in my cuisine however, by adding some flavours here and there. But I won’t say that I cook Mauritian at the Pompette.”
Reveling in the spotlight
In early 2023, Martine competed in one of Canada’s most fiery reality competition shows, Top Chef Canada. “Participating in Top Chef Canada was a great experience for me, I was able to meet chefs from around the country and cook in places I would have never cooked before,” mentions Martine. “Plus, it’s always nice to be on TV.”
Soon after, Pompette was recognized in the Michelin Guide as a recommended restaurant. “It’s a big recognition to be mentioned by the Michelin Guide, especially for the team,” says Martine. “It’s a great way to thank them for all their hard work.” This kind of recognition fuels Martine’s passion: “In my career I’ve learned to never let anyone tell you that you are not good at what you are doing.”
The evolution of Pompette
“If I could describe Pompette in three words, it would be: passionate, seasonal and contemporary,” says Martine. “Pompette is a French restaurant, where people feel like they are in France — this has never changed and never will.” Martine values the prestige Pompette brings to the Toronto food scene, and cherishes staying true to what she knows. “We do, however, always strive to evolve and adapt to our guest’s needs,” Martine mentions. A dish she says she’ll never get tired of making has to be the leek vinaigrette: “This dish has been on the menu since day one, and every time I have one, it feels like a new dish for me.”
My advice to aspiring chefs in the industry: be humble and always have a positive mindset.
What’s next for Pompette, you might ask? Martine says to keep your eyes open. After all her success and growth in the past few years, we can only expect more to come for this chefs incredible restaurant. In the meantime, we’ll patiently wait while enjoying a delicious nightcap at Bar Pompette down the street. If you’re looking to experience an evening at Pompette, make your reservation here.