I grew up in Fort-Coulonge, a small village in the Pontiac region in Western Quebec, Canada. My father owned a farm. On the farm, we raised animals. We had cows, chickens, and pigs. My father also taught me at a very young age, how to take care of these animals, how to groom them, and how to feed them. For some animals, I had to learn how to butcher them too, and how to cook them. That's how it was back in those days. We also had a garden with potatoes, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, onions, and much more. We ate what we grew; and we grew what we ate. And on and on it went. It was that simple.
From my youth, I have learned that the use of fresh ingredients represent the foundation of good cooking. Respecting the ingredients' original tastes by preserving as much as possible what it was meant to taste is what makes great cooking. The challenge obviously is combining these ingredients in creating an unique symbiosis of tastes and textures. However, cooking by itself, especially home cooking, does not have to be all that complicated. In this age of time, so many foods have been modified and pre-packaged in the stores, giving consumers a sense of painless simplicity. I believe that it is important for us, for the sake of our own health and our responsibility toward the future generation, to eat better, to engage in conscious eating, and to teach our children the elemental taste of what a food naturally tastes like, uncamouflaged with additives, sugar, and all the extraneous fluff.
When I arrived in Montreal, I was 19 years old. My first jobs included working in the kitchens of Côte-à-Baron and Witloof on St-Denis street. Eventually I got to design the menu of a pizzeria chain, which you may be familiar with, called Pizzédélic. I also spent four years there as a head chef.
In 1995, I was 28 years old. I took a big leap of faith and opened my first restaurant with a friend and colleague, called Le Misto. Serving Italian bistro food, the restaurant was one of the first to be opened on Mont-Royal avenue. It remained open for another 20 years, becoming one of the classics of the neighborhood.
Some time between Le Misto and teaching at L'Académie culinaire, I also participated in the opening of Romeo pizzeria, also on Mont-Royal avenue, as well as Spag & Co in Mont-Tremblant, to name a few.
Ultimately, Le Richmond, followed by Le Richmond Italian Market (10th and 11th restaurant, respectively) represent my biggest endeavors to date, not only in terms of size and capacity, but also in ideology and conceptualization. My fellow restaurateur colleagues are well-aware and all too familiar with the amount of energy and work it takes to open just a small-size restaurant. Every detail requires your attention. And everything is a detail. Someone in the industry once told me that launching a new restaurant is really quite like a "love-and-hate" relationship. Yet, there must be a lot more love than most of us would like to admit. Actually, there has to be, or else no one would be doing it.
I have learned many things along the journey. To date, I am still learning. The restaurant business can be described like an oil puddle: it's easy to spot the big puddles, but hard to actually grasp it in your hands. That's why it is such an attractive, yet hard business to get into. At the very end, I believe that food is what brings all of this together. The kitchen is the heart of a restaurant - at the very least, it's where I have put my heart in the last three decades of being in this industry.