If you hadn't already heard, we’re very excited to share the news with you of our new column featured in Toronto Star’s Star Touch app.
Every Sunday, you'll find seasonal RICARDO content, including recipes, videos and more, right on your tablet! We hope you join us!
Below, read an excerpt of a profile on Ricardo which appeared in a recent print edition of Toronto Star.
Article by ZOE McKNIGHT
Photo by CHRISTIAN LACROIX
In the office of celebrity chef Ricardo Larrivée, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth is on display and he jokes his end game is "running for" Governor General.
A proud Quebecer musing about becoming the English monarch's representative in Canada makes sense once you understand he's something of an empire-builder himself.
Grapevines outside the Espace Ricardo retail store in a South Shore suburb of Montreal hint at a café set to open this month, servingRicardo-branded wines on the terrace.
Inside, a customer meets Larrivée amid the hundreds of gadgets bearing his name. The woman blushes deeply, mutters "enchantée" and even curtsies - maybe sensing a future Governor General is in her midst.
Larrivée, 49, has spent the last two decades building a sprawling media presence based on his affable personality and style of cooking simple, affordable meals for families - his ideal recipe has no more than seven ingredients, costs $5 per serving and is ready in 30 minutes or less.
His easy charm has made him the Martha Stewart of French Canada. If he's not easily recognizable outside Quebec, it won't be for long. He's been travelling the country, making the rounds on morning shows, and launches a column on Star Touch beginning Sunday. His cooking show Ricardo, which is shot in his home kitchen in Chambly, Que., is by far the most popular morning show on Radio-Canada Television and airs in 160 countries. His Food Network showRicardo and Friends reached viewers in 50 countries for several years.
His cookbooks are bestsellers and circulation for his magazines is 72,500 in English and 111,350 in French. "My goal is not English or French. It's about food, " he says. "If I am making you a broccoli soup, it has nothing to do with where I'm from. Is it a good soup or not?"
At Ricardo headquarters, a 40,000-square-foot former industrial building in Saint-Lambert, aproned assistants test raspberry s'mores in a gleaming kitchen; in a hive of cubicles, writers produce Ricardo magazine in both English and French; in an airy corner office, his wife Brigitte Coutu, president of Ricardo Media Inc., makes editorial decisions; and in his office, his eldest of three daughters, Béatrice, is hanging around on a day off school.
Larrivée never wanted to attain stardom through fine dining. His homestyle cooking is a huge part of the Ricardo appeal. After all, "it's what 95 per cent of the world eats, " says Toronto chef and Food Network host Lynn Crawford, who worked with Larrivée on last year's Cook for the Cure, a Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation fundraiser. "It's not over-the-top unattainable food. It's food you want to cook and want to share and enjoy with family and friends."
Larrivée was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2014 "for having put cooking within everyone's reach and for his support of various social causes, " including breast cancer research and learn-to-cook programs for kids.
When Coutu, a nutritionist, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, it gave the family a renewed sense of purpose and urgency. The mission is now "to help families eat together and give them the tools required to help them cook more homemade meals, " says Coutu, 47.
It's clear the staff adore Larrivée; he plies them with lunchtime wine and cake, insists no one eat alone at their desk and encourages bringing their kids to the office.
Fans adore him too. A few have taken it too far, showing up at his house at 3 a.m. "Some women love you too much, " he jokes. "It's never top models, eh? It's not a movie."
Saskatchewan holds a special spot in Larrivée's heart. He moved there in the early '90s on a whim for a technical job on a regional Radio-Canada cooking show. On his second day there, he was hunting wild turkey, serving the roasted meat with local honey and Saskatoon berries.
When he returned to Quebec from Regina, Larrivée was introduced to Coutu through one of his first teachers. Soeur Angèle, a nun and culinary star in her own right, set up a blind date. Larrivée spent the next day calling every Coutu in the phone book trying to find her. They were married in 1996; Coutu now runs the company and Larrivée is chairman of the board.
"They complement each other so well. He has an idea a minute and she chooses the ones that are good for their business and makes sure they are well-executed, " said longtime family friend Christiane Germaine, co-president of Montreal-based Groupe Germain Hotels. Broadcasting was an obvious fit for the chef: he never stops talking. He can segue from the secret of a great ganache frosting to who is buried in Saint-Lambert's tombs to the history of Quebec sugar shacks.
"He was very comfortable on-air, but I didn't suspect he would go on and be this successful, and I didn't know at the time what his ambitions were, " said Stéphane Garneau, one of the first radio hosts Larrivée worked with.
Neither did Larrivée. It took two decades to build the brand's credibility. "At some point, I was paying all the bills talking about food and cooking, " he says. "It focused me. I said, ‘If this is my life, we have to be the best.' "
The article Meet Ricardo, the most famous Canadian chef you've never heard of appeared in the March 12, 2016 edition of Toronto Star.