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May 13, 2022

Red, blue, green and yellow

I don’t remember, was it in second or third grade that I discovered coloured pencils? Yes, that’s right, it may seem strange today, but in 1954, beautiful Laurentian crayons were something very precious.

“Precious and expensive,” said Mom when she read the list of school supplies. She had chosen the little box of six pencils for me: red, blue, green, yellow, orange and purple. I was ecstatic despite the fact that I had insisted on the 12-colour box.

Mom controlled the family’s purse strings and every cent counted. Especially since she was also going to have to buy me a block of large sheets of white paper so I could practise drawing. By the look on her face, I knew she would only do it reluctantly. But I learned. I drew the sky and sea so many times that it wasn’t long before the blue pencil was just a stub. I still remember it clearly. I was teary-eyed until Dad returned from his trip and promised to bring me a box of 12 pencils, just for me.

I drew fir trees, my favourite, with thick, heavy branches and occasionally a beautiful yellow star, glittering at its peak. The orange pencil was almost never used because at that time oranges were rarely available in the Gaspé. Once, however, I drew Mom in an orange dress with a little matching headband. She had a beautiful figure, but said she would never be caught wearing such a garish dress.

Today, like Iris Apfel, orange is one of my favourite colours, along with yellow, pink, mauve and lime green. Yes, I like bold colours because they give me a sense of being alive. By the way, I’m crazy about glasses and I have them in almost every colour. I amuse myself scouring flea markets for retro frames. You might even think that my wardrobe is like a big box of 24-colour Laurentian pencils.

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember – on school sheets, the back of calendar pages, on well-kept notebooks, in the margins of my diaries, and later, on the walls of our restaurants. You see, we had no budget to decorate the walls, so I would illustrate and colour in the names of the menu’s dishes. I put up some 10 posters around the restaurant. For almost a decade, with each new opening, I drew these names over and over again until the day arrived when we could afford to have my drawings professionally reproduced.

For a long time I drew our menus by hand, creating small illustrations which, over the years, coalesced into a very special communication style. I also designed the upper and lower case characters myself, which became our own typeface. We still use it today in all our marketing communications. The distinctive CORA typeface was programmed with software for our graphic designers to use some 15 years ago and closely reflects the original style of our concept.

This achievement makes me especially happy and proud. Not only did I have the pleasure of designing our SUN logo, all our menus and most of our decorative illustrations myself, but I also have the deep satisfaction of knowing that the little boxes of crayons from my childhood served me well.

Once again, I realize that the beginnings of the CORA concept started in my childhood. The great importance I gave to the shapes of the alphabet, the constant hunger to learn, my love of reading and great curiosity were cornerstones in my success.

I remember all those years ago when I watered every single seed of an idea. I watched every detail, every appetizing colour, every generous plate. Each new tremor excited my curiosity and I gave it my full attention. Even though I faced doubt, uncertainty and even the impossible with every new idea I considered, I had the blessed habit of ALWAYS WANTING TO TRANSFORM THE ORDINARY INTO THE EXTRAORDINARY.

This happened so often that I came to believe a kind fairy was whispering my best ideas into my ear and that a benevolent angel at my side was guiding my success. And so, as I was struggling to weed my own garden, an amazing concept for morning gastronomy emerged out of nothing.