VÜ: an interview with Paul Leclerc, executive director, and Gilbert Francoeur, chef


VÜ retirement home in Sherbrooke offers a unique living environment, between city and nature. Executive director Paul Leclerc and chef Gilbert Francoeur have a lot to say about the unique features of this seniors’ residence, a place they are definitely passionate about.

Gilbert Francoeur, you’ve been the new chef at VÜ retirement home for a few weeks now. Tell us a little about your journey.

I have a background in the restaurant industry. I was, among other things, one of the founding chefs of Brasserie Cherrier in Montréal. After that, I had quite a varied path. I worked in the university milieu, at Bishop’s University, and even in mining camps. I first worked as a chef with Le Groupe Maurice six years ago, at the Croisée de l’Est retirement home in Granby. I really enjoyed the experience at the time and I promised myself I’d do it again. So here I am a few years later!

What do you particularly enjoy about your work environment? How do you see your role as chef?

Here, everybody is happy and enjoys their work. As for the residents, we feel that they appreciate the dishes that we prepare for them in the kitchen. What they want, in fact, is to feel that we’ve put our heart and love into the dishes. Because I’m a new chef, I’m very present in the dining room. It’s important to meet people and to show them that I’m committed to providing stability and continuity. My cooking is classical in style, French as well as Québécois, but I try to always offer something new. For example, I can make a beef stew at lunch and duck for dinner. I like to pair tradition with a dash of innovation.

What are your plans for the dining room? Are you going to offer some new things?

In the coming months, I’d like to continue to concentrate on what’s already been done, while developing some new services. For example, to liven up the dining room, we’re going to carve the meat in front of the residents. There’s also a vegetarian menu, which is very popular and which allows for greater dietary variety. Some other surprises are also in the works!

Paul Leclerc, what was your path before you became executive director at Le Groupe Maurice?

Believe it or not, I’m a chef by training. I studied at the Québec Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management and I even had my own restaurant for seven years. That’s why, for me, the food aspect is extremely important. As well, the pleasure of eating is something we retain throughout our lives, and we really focus on this aspect with the Fresh Traditions program that’s been instituted in the residence. I’ve been working in the retirement home field for nine years, four of those with Le Groupe Maurice. I often say that if I’d known before what it was like to work for this company, I would have made the jump much sooner! It’s an extremely rewarding field: once you’re able to touch the hearts of residents, they pay you back a hundredfold. We feel great appreciation for what we do.

What sets the VÜ retirement home apart from others, and what is special about the residents?

Here, the people are very close-knit and we feel that there’s a real pride in being part of the residence community. For our part, we make sure that we constantly maintain a high level of satisfaction through regular surveys. And during the pandemic and lockdown, our recreation director developed some innovative solutions. For example, we offered activities to do at home by means of the residence’s television network. Zumba and physical activity classes, and even Mass, were broadcast this way!

We also created the Culinary Committee, which is very popular and includes dozens of volunteers. Participants can help prepare dishes that will be sold to residents, with the profits going to a charitable organization chosen by the committee.

We also take special care to welcome people who are moving into the retirement home. A welcome cocktail party is organized. Linking up with the sponsorship committee allows newcomers to meet the residents and to quickly develop ties with them. We’re never short of ideas here!

Gentlemen, thank you so much for sharing your valuable time to answer our questions! We wish you a wonderful experience in your beautiful residence!