This Is Ricardo Larrivée and What You Need to Know About Him
The celebrity chef talks about his passion for cooking and Canadian culinary highlights not to be missed
Ricardo Larrivée has spent 25 years building a cooking empire, first in Quebec and then across the rest of Canada. In an average week, you might find him hopping from the set of his hit cooking show to the kitchen of his Montreal café to an editorial meeting at his magazine. Last year, Larrivée travelled across Canada to explore and celebrate the richness of our culinary products and traditions. The result? A 52-episode web series, We Are the Best, that showcases products from across the country, from Acadian caviar to Okanagan cherries.
We asked Larrivée what he learned while shooting the series and what he enjoys about inspiring others to get into the kitchen.
CAA: What first got you interested in food and cooking?
RL: I’ve been cooking since I can remember. Some kids are super good in hockey. Others are playing piano at five. I was cooking. As a child I was creating recipes, I was copying my mother and grandmother. I loved everything about food.
CAA: What’s the best part about your job?
RL: The beauty of my job is bringing people to eat together. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, your language, your political views, your religion—around the table, you will find that you can be yourself, be happy and share who you are.
I don’t like it when people tell others what to eat, or how to eat. People have lots of challenges: there’s a lack of time, you’re concerned by your health, maybe money. My job is not to tell you what to eat. It’s to find solutions so you have more time, you feel more confident and you have options if you’re looking for something healthy.
CAA: Where did the idea for We Are the Best come from?
RL: I always had this question in my mind: how come Americans are always bragging that they’re the best? I always thought we are the best, and I wanted to prove it. So when we saw the government was looking for projects that would celebrate the country for the 150th, we sent them the idea for the series.
You know, Canadians, we don’t like to brag. I thought, if [our producers] are not comfortable saying that they’re the best in the world at what they do, I’ll do it for them—we’ll find 52 families across the country and tell 52 stories. The beautiful surprise has been that everywhere we went, we found that the people we spoke to were very open to bragging about themselves.
CAA: You know a lot about food. Can you tell us about something you learned while making the series that took you by surprise?
RL: We learned something on every trip. Like down here [Montreal and Toronto], all the strawberries we have in the winter, 80 per cent of them are from Quebec. What we didn’t know was that there’s a guy who’s harvesting the plants, then packing them and shipping them down to Florida so the plants think it’s spring. They’re planting them there, harvesting the fruit, and then shipping it back up the east coast. That’s funny!
You probably know that the McIntosh apple is a Canadian creation. It’s one of the favourite apples in the world. Well, right now, there are farmers creating the apple of 2050. Right now! It seems far, but tastes have changed. People want more crunch, a different acidity balance with the sugar. By breeding plants together they’re creating the future.
CAA: If you were to plan an unforgettable Canadian culinary journey for someone, what stops would be on it?
RL: First, you have to stop in Newfoundland to kiss the cod. They have a unique way of seeing life there. P.E.I. is another stop, because life is gentle there. They have wine and other things you don’t expect. The food is inexpensive and well prepared. Then a stop in Quebec, of course, to go crazy on cheese and foie gras and lamb in the regions of Charlevoix and Quebec.
I’d tell them to go to the Niagara Valley in August—you have peaches and pears and all that, and the food is fantastic. Then stop in Regina for local beer, and wild turkey and bison. And then on to the Okanagan Valley—the food, shows and the cultural life around the valley are unique in Canada.
Finish on the West Coast for seafood, because it’s different than anywhere else. They have super shrimp that are very ecological in the way they’re harvested. And the best sunsets. You have to have dinner in Vancouver’s English Bay and listen to the kids playing on the beach while the sun sets. It’s better than California.
Proud to be Canadian?
Learn more about other famous Canuck personalities like The Amazing Race Canada’s Jon Montgomery and Peter Mansbridge, the former host of The National.
Image credit: Dominique Lafond