Soft-Serve, Surgery, and Poutine Smoothies with Tommy Kruise
After undergoing brutal sleep apnea surgery—which required breaking his jaw in two different places—and an ensuing eight-week recovery period, Kruise is watching what he eats way more than he did in the past.
"Poutine ain't all that. Like, it's great, but it ain't all that. Bring me a nice quiche instead, you know?"
A few years ago, hearing these words from the mouth of Tommy Kruise would have been unimaginable. But after undergoing brutal sleep apnea surgery—which required breaking his jaw in two different places—and an ensuing eight-week recovery period, Kruise is watching what he eats way more than he did in the past.
"I try to keep myself distant from the demons," Kruise laughs. "I don't really eat junk food and poutine anymore. You can't eat too much of that stuff." But that's not to say that Kruise didn't give in to the occasional moment of post-op
"Poutine in a blender was amazing; it was definitely one of the highlights. I was feeding myself with a syringe for like three weeks because and my dad was fed up with seeing me suffer and drinking protein shakes. So he got me a poutine, a cheeseburger, and a Canada Dry ginger ale at the casse-croute right next to his crib."
"Right after the poutine, I put a cheeseburger mixed with Canada Dry and topped it off with some ketchup. It tasted exactly like a cheeseburger with Canada Dry and ketchup. It was so good—it was even better than the poutine. It felt good to have some real food."
Kruise has made a name for himself as one of Montreal's most prominent music producers, but also as a sort of brand ambassador for Quebec food, with a particular emphasis on the low-brow. And while he says that he still enjoys the occasional junk food indulgence, the surgery has definitely changed Kruise's admittedly complex relationship with food.
"Before my surgery, I would fall asleep right after eating because of the apnea. I would eat half a sandwich and just pass out. It sucked. Now, I can eat more and drink more, so I'm experimenting a little and eating way less junk food.
"I would swallow my tongue. I snored all the time. I was never able to share my bed with a girl. I would wake up with a text saying, 'I went home.' For the last couple years, I haven't been able to sleep next to a girl. I missed that for like six years. I've been too shy to bring girls back to my place."
I met Tommy in the Mile End neighbourhood he recently moved to and now calls home. It's a place with deep cultural roots and almost completely void of mass-produced food. In other words, it's a perfect place for Kruise to recalibrate his diet.
"For me, junk food is anything made by the million," he says. "There's no Starbucks, McDonald's, or Burger King around here. It's kind of bizarre, because sometimes I come home a bit tipsy, and I want food like that, but there is none around here. I guess it's better like that. It's really different."
"That's what I like about the Mile End. There are no condos anywhere. Like, Brooklyn has been destroyed, and now, they're going to turn Bushwick into a fashion runway right under L train. When they try yuppie shit around here, it lasts like three months."
First stop: Rôtisserie Serrano BBQ for a Portuguese bun stuffed with roasted chicken, and, as per Tommy's special request, potatoes cooked under dripping chicken fat from the rotisserie.
"This really is the center of the universe for me. I love the chicken here. When I moved to Mile End, it was one of the first places I came to. It's cheap and everyone's always nice. This is much more than a restaurant for me; I hate using the word, but it's really like family here."
Family-run spots like Serrano are not hard to find in the Mile End, the most famous, and infamous, of which is probably Wilensky's Light Lunch, a place which, for Kruise, blurs the ethnic lines between Jewish and québécois food.
"Whenever I pass by Wilensky's, I can't help it. It's like three bucks for a sandwich. And when you think about it, baloney, mustard, and cheese is pretty Québécois. I also like that it's so in your face there; if you ask for no mustard, it's like, 'Get the fuck out!'"
Speaking of "get the fuck out," another factor that has led to a reduction of Kruise's fast-food intake is an ongoing beef with Quebec steamie mega-chain, La Belle Province.
"I don't go to Belle Province anymore. I have a beef with them," Kruise recounts. "I went once and bought a combo with a bottle of water. I forgot the bottle of water on the counter and when I went back, the guy was putting it back under the counter. I got into a big argument and called him names. They got the 'X.' I'll go to the Montreal Poolroom any time over Belle Pro. And shoutout to this whole pimp situation disappearing on that street!"
Next stop: Café Olimpico, a Mile End coffee institution which is equal parts coffee and social club. "It's like a meeting place. I always have nice conversations here. My girl-crush was here the other day, and we spoke for like two hours. I was like, 'Sick, I like this place.' It's just around the corner from the crib. It's not even really about the coffee, but they also have the best coffee. I've started drinking more coffee because of Olimpico and now, I just chug it."
Having chugged our coffees, it was time for one last stop at the ice cream shop, as one does in the warmer months in Montreal. "I fucking love ice cream. Kem CoBa is the perfect place to bring your girl in the summer."
It didn't take long before our conversation at Kem CoBa revereted back to poutine, in between slurps of a blackberry and lemon sorbet/ice cream swirl. Kruise says he's not too worried about Quebec being known around the world for one very simple dish. Nor is he concerned about the appropriation of our national dish by restaurant chains across the US and the rest of Canada—just stay away from ragout de boulettes, America.
"The people in Quebec made this food a stereotype; you export what you want to export," Kruise says. "There are so many other Quebec dishes like ragouts, steak haché, pate chinois. I'm so glad there are no restaurants in LA doing expensive ragout de boulettes."
And while Kruise's focus remains squarely on his music, particularly on his latest EP Memphis Confidential Vol. 2, his passion for food has become a big part of the Tommy Kruise brand.
"When I'm on tour, people are often like, 'Hey! You're that guy from Quebec!' Someone stopped me in the street in Australia to talk to me about the hot chicken sandwich video I did for MUNCHIES. He had seen the video and saw my face and was like, 'Dude, where's the sandwich?' It happened a couple of times in the States, too. I would never call myself 'an ambassador' or anything, but I will always rep Quebec food."
WATCH: How-To: Make a Hot Chicken Sandwich with Tommy Kruise