I grew up in Fort-Coulonge, a small village in the Pontiac region in Western Quebec, Canada. My father had a farm. I basically grew up with animals, cows, chickens, sheeps, and pigs around. My father taught me at a very young age, how to take care of them, to groom them, to feed them, to kill them, then to cook them, and to eat them. That's how it was back in those days. We also had a garden with potatoes, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, onions. We ate what we grew; and we grew what we ate. It was that simple. This is why fresh ingredients are so important to me. When the ingredients are fresh and high-quality, there isn't much else that is needed for it to taste good.
My father was a hard worker. He always told me "If you're aren't going to do it right, then don't do it at all." My mother insisted on the same principles and tightened the ropes around the house. Like she always said, "In this house, I am the boss." She had no choice but to be strict – we were three boys. To discourage us from straying, my parents gave us a lot of chores. From helping out at the farm, to cleaning out the shed, to cutting the grass, or to organizing haystacks, it became clear to me at a young age that nothing was given for free. It also taught me that one's value is earned through what one brings to the community.
When I arrived in Montreal, I was 20 years old. My first jobs include working in the kitchens of Côte-à-Baron and Witloof on St-Denis street. Eventually I got to design the menu of the first pizzeria chain, which you may be familiar with, called Pizzédélic. I 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, called Le Misto. Serving Italian bistro food, the restaurant remained open for another 18 years, becoming one of the classics of the neighbourhood.
Sometime 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 endeavours 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 family-size restaurant. Every detail requires your attention. And everything is a detail. Someone renowned with alot of restaurant design and opening experience recently told me that launching a new restaurant is really quite like a "love-and-hate" relationship. I must say that I agree. Yet, there must be a lot more love than most of us would like to admit. Actually, there has to be.
I have learned many things along the journey. I still am. 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's such a hard business to get into. At the very end, I believe that the 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 two decades of being in this industry.