In the Suitcase with David Tetrault

A travelling gourmet unpacks his secrets

photo by toque & canoe

There’s just something about that David Tetrault.

You’ll recognize him – wherever you happen to be – because he’s the guy in the room who looks like he’s having way more fun than everyone else.

Few people match Tetrault’s passion for food and travel, which, combined, make him an excellent fit for his role as the Calgary-based president of the Canadian arm of the international gastronomic society Chaine des Rotisseurs, an intriguing organization that has roots in 1950s Paris and spans 75 countries. (Whew! Say that one quickly three times.)

Tetrault’s joie de vivre – coupled with the fact that he’s always poised to take off on another fabulous foodie adventure – is also what makes this Calgarian a winning contender as the first subject in our new “In the Suitcase” series.

Q. Tell us, David, about your preferred suitcases and why you like them.

A. My favourite is a black two-suiter made by Samsonite but I’m currently experimenting with a tubular bag called Skyroll that was invented by a pilot. The suitbag feature rolls up around a central tube. You can put socks, underwear, shaving kit etc. directly in the tube.

Q. Can you dish on your suitcase essentials?

A. I’m not a slave to fashion when I travel – just Gap pants and an LLBean jacket. You can wear this ensemble for hiking or for a casual restaurant meal without feeling like you look like a bum in shorts and a T-shirt. However, if I’m travelling for a Chaine formal dinner, I’ll bring a tuxedo, formal shirt, cufflinks, and black shoes. Being a senior officer, I need to make that extra effort to dress properly and behave myself. In other words, going naked is not an option.

Q. Can you tell us about the other “gear” you bring along?

A. I always bring two cameras. One regular size Canon Rebel XSi with two lenses for day use. And one very small Canon for night time. You don’t want to look like a rube in a restaurant with a huge camera perched on the table in front of you. Oh, and a dual action corkscrew. Nothing fancy but if we go for a picnic we want to be prepared. We’ve found that in France, especially, they have not embraced the screw top wine bottle.

Q. David, how would you describe your packing style?

A. I’m a precision packer. I use the Eagle Point shirt case which keeps my shirts folded and compact. I also use plastic freezer bags for sweaters. Put the sweater in the bag. Sit on it. Squeeze out the air. And zip it up.

Q. What distinguishes your suitcase from the others on the carousel at the airport?

A. A small black and white checked velcro handle cover. By the way, if you still find your luggage circulating the carousel more than twice before you notice it, then you’ve probably had too much wine on the plane.

Q. Can you tell us about any souvenirs that have travelled back to Canada in your suitcase?

A. We bring back fois gras in a tin. You can’t get it here, not the tinned goose variety. We also like to keep our used Metro tickets from Paris. We plant them in our clothes – maybe a ski jacket pocket – or use them as book marks. Little reminders of our time away.

If we eat somewhere fabulous and memorable – it could be in the middle of nowhere – we often ask for a menu to bring home. We attended a Chaine dinner in Toronto at the Royal York in 2010 where we were presented with a beautiful souvenir menu featuring historic photos of Fairmont hotels from across the country. It was phenomenal.

Recently, we brought some Ricard pastis glasses home from Rocamadour that we bought from a bartender. Our tradition – especially when we’re travelling with friends – is to stop wherever we are at ten in the morning. We find a cafe, enjoy a pastis and then an espresso. We do this every day. On every trip. It’s just necessary.

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  1. Blair Jordan commented:

    I have met David on several occasions, as he is my friend’s dad. He is one of the coolest and nicest guys you will meet!


  2. Suzanne Tetrault commented:

    I have also met David on several occasions.

    “You’ll recognize him – wherever you happen to be – because he’s the guy in the room who looks like he’s having way more fun than everyone else.”

    You’re spot on! That describes him perfectly!


  3. Liana Robberecht commented:

    Great read! ever since I have met Mr. Tetrault, I have regarded him as the coolest foodie EVER . Charming, smart and food focused !!!


  4. Dave commented:

    Good article, good experienced tips, thanks! I’ll never understand how a person can fit a tuxedo into a suitcase and have it looking neat and pressed at the destination. That must be the difference between those who know how to pack and those who just stuff suitcases.


    • David Tetrault commented:

      Dave (an alias) and Mrs. Dave (another alias) were our travelling partners who were in Rocamadour with us. What a great trip, especially as we brought home some Ricard glasses to remind us of our pastis.


  5. Joseph Froncioni commented:

    …I could tell you a story or two about David’s gastronomic exploits but he’d kill me. Oh, what the hell.

    I didn’t know about the 10am pastis habit but I have all too often been the victim of his fondness for the very late night, post champagne-2 whites-2 reds-Sauternes-10 course gastronomic Chaîne extravaganza nightcap.

    Congratulations on the great blog and you couldn’t have chosen a classier galopping-gourmet to write about than my good friend, David.


  6. Carol Buchanan commented:

    Another happy “victim” of having the best time in the room, in the yard, on the street, with David. Joined the Chaine so I could enjoy internationally with him…

    Kudos, and Hey isn’t the tube in the centre of the suitcase the same size as a caviar tin????

    Enjoyed the article “cool guy!”


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