“When you’re a chef, you have all of that. We want and must taste all the foods. The evenings are stressful, you have to be well organized. Despite the illness, I still wanted to become a chef, ”says the man to whom his peers awarded the title of“ national chef of the year ”in 2018 and who has worked in kitchens all over the world.
Mathieu Cloutier has learned to live with this disease which does not take vacations. He deals with his daily hazards. “I have days when everything is going well, when everything is going very well. But there are days when I can’t go to work. Where I am tired, where things are wrong. Where I can’t even get out of bed. It’s a difficult disease, even when you learn to live well with it and keep in shape, ”he explains.
Feeding a person with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis is especially difficult. Several foods should be avoided. Each person, with the help of their doctor, defines their own list and their own tolerances. “I, for example, cannot eat legumes. Yet on my restaurant menu, there are lentils. At the start of the evening, I taste to adjust the recipe. Then, team members take over. And that’s fine, because I take small quantities, ”he argues as an example of this difficult balance between what is possible and what breaks the balance.
“And when I go out to eat myself, I’ve learned to ask the right questions of the waiters to find out what the recipes are made of to avoid all the foods that I can’t eat,” he says.
As common as diabetes
But what exactly is Crohn’s disease? This is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack healthy tissue, causing inflammation of part or all of the digestive tract. Result: Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, internal bleeding, and frequent and urgent bowel movements.
The disease affects a large number of Canadians. It is as common as diabetes, for example. In Quebec, it is estimated that 55,000 people are living with one of these two inflammatory diseases.
“When you have diabetes, you talk about it. But when you have Crohn’s disease, it’s a disease of the digestive tract, it’s “embarrassing”, we don’t talk about it. I myself have hidden it almost my entire life at work because I told myself that these were my personal problems. Now I want to talk about it because it is a disease that affects a lot of people. We have to break the silence, ”says the 39-year-old chef.