Although poutine has plenty of origin stories, the two most commonly told iterations both trace back to Quebec in the late 50s and early 60s. The first involves Fernand Lachance, owner and cook at Le Lutin Qui Rit restaurant in the town of Warwick, Quebec. According to The New York Times, it was Lachance who first shook up potatoes and cheese curds in a bag. When he opened the bag, he proclaimed the resulting melted cheese mixture was a “poutine,” a slang word for “mess” in Quebecois French.
The Spruce Eats notes a different version, in which Lachance made the primitive poutine for a truck driver, whose brethren helped to spread the dish’s reputation far and wide. Of course, one ingredient notably absent in the Lachance tale is gravy. Chatelaine claims that Lachance later added gravy to keep the dish warm.
But the critical addition of gravy is also attributed to Jean-Paul Roy. Roy claims he invented poutine at Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville, Quebec, in 1964, per The Canadian Encyclopedia. Roy was apparently topping French fries with his own sauce dating back to 1958 (a possible origin of gravy in the dish) but he did n’t begin adding cheese curds until 1964, after seeing several customers add their own.
There may never be an answer on who officially invented poutine, but one thing is for certain — it is a uniquely delicious dish, and we have Quebec to thank for it.