For Monique Deschaine, founder of Al Dente Pasta, passion for food is genetic. As a child she spent summers soaking up European culture and expanding her palate in her mother’s native France. It was there that she first experienced the complexity inherent in the simplest of foods, and it was those early food forays that laid the first foundations for the creation of Al Dente Pasta.
Fast forward to 1981. In the world of pasta, the times they were-a-changin’. Almost overnight, Americans went from thinking of pasta as “spaghetti and meatballs” to seeking an array of shapes, flavors and recipes. This was also the year that Monique and Dennis Deschaine headed down an adventurous path of pasta they named Al Dente, which is now widely recognized with its clear bag and checkerboard logo. Between Monique’s passion for food and travel and Dennis’s innate ability to fix/build anything, this energetic, young couple decided to marry their talents and pour themselves into making pasta with only the finest ingredients and traditional techniques. Combining these two essentials with love, history, ingenuity and determination, the Deschaines developed the perfect pasta, combining fresh, homemade taste with the convenience of a dried product.
Monique, always one to research and learn new things, has been fortunate to receive advice and mentorship from many. One of her most influential mentors was Marcella Hazan, an Italian cuisine master, who taught Monique everything she needed to know about making pasta. Hazan stressed the importance of rolling out the dough, just like an Italian grandmother, in order to achieve a “tender, but firm” homemade taste and texture. Despite the fact that sheeting the dough was a more expensive, labor-intensive way of making pasta (compared to extruded pastas) it was the only way to get the perfect result for which the Deschaines were looking.
Monique first began by selling her pasta at specialty stores in Ann Arbor and Chicago, such as Michigan’s famed Zingerman’s Deli and Chicago’s Treasure Island. Made in Michigan, today Al Dente is sold nationwide and in Canada at a variety of fine specialty retailers. Nearly 30 years later, Monique and Dennis often reflect back on the days when they stayed up all night, rolling out pasta dough in a friend’s restaurant kitchen and praying that it would be dry by morning. Exhausting. Yes. Exciting. Definitely. That love and unrelenting tenacity was exactly what they needed to build this small batch pasta business overlooking a small lake (Whitmore Lake, Michigan). Al Dente visitors witness family (husband, wife and sister) working side-by-side with loyal, long-time employees who are all true pasta experts. This proud legacy provides the inherent promise of homemade texture, quick cooking time and locally-sourced, American ingredients with every bag of Al Dente Pasta.