I had the pleasure of meeting Ricardo Larrivée, the renowned Quebec-based chef whose contemporary cuisine and down-to-earth recipes has long been staples in Canadian homes. His (long) list of achievements include heading Ricardo magazine, in English and French, creating his own line of cookware and wine (Larrivée Vins du Monde). He is a Member of the Order of Canada and the host of Ricardo and Friends, which has been broadcast to over 50 countries.
Despite all his incredible achievements, this homegrown chef is every bit as warm and humble as you can imagine, translating to his brand’s appeal. With a strong emphasis on family — he is a father of three girls — Ricardo offers gorgeous, yet easy-to-follow meal ideas and smart cooking tips. The most recent magazine issue (Winter 2015), features a beautiful 23-page spread, titled “Oh, Canada”, which showcases Canadian soups unique to each province and territory. It’s a story definitely worth checking out.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we asked Ricardo the secret to a happy marriage and working with his longtime business partner and wife, Brigitte. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you meet your wife?
I met Brigitte on a blind date. It was set up by Sister Angéle, a popular Quebec chef and nun. Our first date was actually during a cheese tasting event, hosted by the Italian Institute of Foreign Trade.
Do you remember the first meal you ever cooked for her? What was it?
Of course! I remember it well. I whipped up the perfect recipe I knew would impress her — chicken breast en papillote, stuffed with avocado, fresh herbs, Swiss cheese and served with a side of vegetables. I have to admit, I had cooked this recipe before but when I saw how much she enjoyed the meal, I started to create unique recipes just for her.
You and Brigitte have been business partners for well over a decade. What do you think is the key to your success in marriage and in business?
Actually, I’m lucky enough to say that it’s been almost twenty years. In my opinion, having a successful marriage is simple: Listen to her needs and always respond with, “Yes, my love.”
All jokes aside, admiration is the key for a couple to successfully work together. I think you must feel proud of the other person’s work and abilities, in life and in business. The key to our success is that our strengths, talents and interests complement each other. We strengthen each other’s weaknesses and become stronger, better versions of ourselves. As a team, we trust and listen to each other and respect each other’s decisions in our respective fields.
What kinds of savoury dishes would you make for a romantic meal?
I believe there’s romance in cooking for your significant other. It’s all in the effort you put in, even if cooking isn’t your forte. A partner will always appreciate the effort and time you spent making and organizing the dinner. It demonstrates your true skills and how much you care.
The meal doesn’t have to be complex; simple recipes will go a long way. Choose a meal with ingredients he or she loves to eat. Prepare an appetizer to enjoy before dinner to hold off the hunger before the main course. That way you’ll have the opportunity to have a nice conversation during dinner and enjoy the meal you prepared.
I like making light dinners with a glass or two of wine. I find eating heavier meals with a lot of alcohol ends the night early. Make the night special by reminiscing on memories and discussing plans for the future. Leave the conversations about daily chores and activities for another time. Make the most out of the night and enjoy each other’s company.
Now on to the dessert… what would you serve?
Dessert is probably the trickiest course of all. You’ve carefully planned the appetizers, main course and cocktails and by now you may be out of ideas. Not everyone has a sweet tooth so there is no need to prepare an elaborate cake. Finish off the dinner with a simple high note. This could be espresso with a brownie, homemade or store bought, and a side of ice cream or fresh fruit topped with Grand Marnier and whipped cream.
Speaking of dessert, if you had to eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Without a doubt, I would choose my lemon pie cake. It’s a fresh and light angel food cake layered with tangy lemon curd and a meringue topping. I love lemon and the cake is decadent!
Tell us one thing you’d like to do better.
I wish I was better at planning our family’s meals for the week. My wife, Brigitte, is great at that. I often get so excited about planning our next meal that I forget to prepare for the rest of the week. I’m working on managing my time in the kitchen, keeping in mind my family’s weekly schedule.
If you could dine with any culinary great in the world, who would that be?
Definitely Martha Stewart. She’s an intriguing woman who has revolutionized how cookbooks and magazines are created today. She’s an absolute genius when it comes to integrating her content across all platforms. The first cookbook I ever owned, and is still a favourite today, was Martha’s cookbook on pies. Every single pie recipe in the cookbook was successful and delicious.
Is there one dish that Brigitte makes that you can’t get enough of?
Truly, I love all of her dishes. It’s hard to choose just one. It’s a real treat to come home from work and not have to worry about what to make for dinner. When Brigitte cooks, I know it’s going to be delicious and I can never get tired of that. While she prepares dinner, all I need to do is create a great cocktail!
This interview has been edited and condensed.