The revival of the Ritz-Carlton deserved a restaurant equal to the mark. Thus was born Maison Boulud. The internationally renowned chef Daniel Boulud has entrusted the reins to close associate, Riccardo Bertolino, who has worked long and hard for eight months with 28 chefs and sommelier Isabel Bordeleau. This amiable leader with a proven track record in Paris, Singapore and New York, graciously answered our questions.
Where does your desire to cook originate? I come from Sicily, a region that worships gastronomy. And from a very early age, I loved watching my father cook and loved to eat what he prepared. As I grew up, I wanted to offer this kind of pleasure to people.
What characterizes the Riccardo ‘signature’? The original flavor: it is critical not to alter the product. In addition, I prepare French cuisine, but given my background, I usually add a little Italian touch.
Who are other leaders you admire and why? Without a doubt, Daniel Boulud, my mentor. Despite his fame, he has remained a humble man and is still hands-on in the kitchen. He’s also very close and generous with people. I admire his philanthropic spirit.
What dish would you have liked to invent? Albufera sauce.
Your favorite dish? Eggplant parmigiana. Despite appearances, this is a dish which is very difficult to prepare well.
What do you eat on-the-go? Baguette and cheese.
An indispensable tool in the kitchen? My spoons. This is a very personal tool. And my cake tester.
Salty or sweet? Definitely salty.
Your greatest career lesson?You must have discipline and respect for others to be a good chef. A kitchen should always be spotlessly clean. And learning languages can be a lifetime undertaking which will open many doors.
What do you do when you’re not cooking? I read books, cookbooks, among others! And I take part in combat sports like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: an excellent anti-stress exercise.
Your favorite restaurants? In Montréal: Toqué! In Modena: Osteria Francescana. And in New York: Boulud Sud.
What are your favorite products? Meat and game. Here in Québec, I’ve discovered wild fruits, honey, deer and suckling pig.
A discovery of the past year? Montréal! Where people love the pleasures of the table. I also found a cadre of very talented Québec chefs, constantly researching and evolving. The culinary community is very inclusive: Chefs Laprise and Picard, among others, have been of great assistance in securing good local suppliers.
Maison Boulud, ritzmontreal.com
Photos: Yves Lefebvre