Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Régine Chassagne are opening a new Haitian restaurant, Agrikol, in Montreal this summer with the help of celebrated Toronto restaurateurs (and fellow husband-wife duo) Roland Jean and Jen Agg, The Globe and Mail reports.
Agrikol will feature Haitian cuisine, visual arts and, of course, music. Butler and Chassagne’s friendship with Jean and Agg got off to an inauspicious start. After Butler commandeered the stereo in Agg’s Toronto restaurant with a Haitian Creole festival music called rara, he accidentally blew up the PA system.
But the friendship endured, in part because both couples have roots in Haiti — Chassagne’s parents emigrated from the country, while Jean was born there. As their relationship developed, the foursome discovered a mutual desire to open a Haitian-inspired space in Montreal.
“It’s more of an art project. The idea is that it’s a cultural space,” Butler said. “The thing that we were really impressed with at [Agg’s restaurant] Rhum Corner is that it’s this space for Haitian and Caribbean culture and it’s really cool and contemporary. Régine’s family moved to Montreal from Haiti, like a lot of Haitians, and moving to this tundra, you know …”
“You miss the warmth,” Chassagne added.
Agrikol’s kitchen will be helmed by Jesse Grasso (the head chef at Rhum Corner), who traveled to Haiti and worked with Jean’s sister to prep for the new gig. Agg noted that while the food will be presented differently, they’re shooting for authentic flavors, including MSG, “which is used in Haitian cooking in a real way, and we want to get rid of the stigma.” She added that it will be easier to secure proper ingredients, like djon djon mushrooms, in Montreal as well, since it boasts a Haitian community of about 200,000.
Arcade Fire have been tireless advocates for Haiti, raising money for the country since 2005 and stepping up their efforts significantly following the country’s devastating earthquake in 2010. In 2011, the band played a surprise show at the Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince, and their ensuing trip throughout the country provided inspiration for Arcade Fire’s 2013 album, Reflektor.