Montreal chef Kimberly Lallouz running a culinary empire

chef Kimberly Lallouz

At the beginning of 2020, Montreal entrepreneur and chef Kimberly Lallouz was on top of the world, as she was running a successful culinary empire that she built from the ground up and employed over 100 people.

Chef Kimberly Lallouz

In 2010, she opened up her first restaurant called Miss Pret A Manger on Bleury Street in downtown Montreal. That was followed by Monsieur Resto and Bar, Miss Tennis (which was a gastronomic highlight at the annual Rogers Cup tennis tournament at the Uniprix Tennis Stadium), the MAC Restaurant at the Musee d’Art Contemporain, the Bird Bar (a fried chicken and champagne restaurant in Griffintown) and Henden, a speakeasy bar that was located behind the grow wall in the basement of the Bird Bar.

chef Kimberly Lallouz
Chef Kimberly Lallouz

On top of that, Ms. Lallouz also operated Petite Miss Pret (a non-profit venture that served meals to children from lower income households who attended a number of daycares in the city), a catering service that did 15-30 weddings every year, an event planning service for corporate events and a bar service, as well as doing a number of travelling chef gigs around the world.

Her passion of cooking original dishes that used fresh organic produce also transcended onto the TV screen. In 2016, she hosted her own cooking show on the Zeste cable channel called “Les Garden-Partys de Kimberly”; was part of the judging panel on the reality competition show “Je Suis Chef” in 2019; and was a regular on the Radio-Canada program “5 Chefs dans Ma Cuisine” with veteran Quebecois actress Marina Orsini.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and the massive lockdown that came as a result of it, in March of last year. “That was a big pill to swallow. When the lockdown began on March 24, I was in Tel Aviv; meanwhile back at home, I had a $6000 perishable food order waiting for my restaurants that just had their doors suddenly closed and was immediately rendered useless,” she said in a recent phone interview. “I didn’t want to crash and burn. I still wanted to be an inspiration to female entrepreneurs everywhere with the message of staying positive in a situation that is not easy, to say the least.”

Kimberly Lallouz
Chef Kimberly Lallouz

A self-confessed home chef who never attended culinary school, Ms. Lallouz said her love of food and cooking came from her grandparents. “They believed in creating dishes using colourful, healthy food. In fact, I never even had a Big Mac during my younger years,” she said. “The kitchen was always a centrepiece for my family; it was always a focal point for us. I always liked to dabble in kosher and vegetarian dishes – although I am not a vegetarian myself – and try different things that will heighten and excite my customers. I like to remind them to eat their veggies, because there is so much beautiful, colourful bounty from the earth.”

She went on to study marketing and journalism, and then got a job in the fashion industry that had her constantly travelling to many countries around the globe. However, such a fast-paced profession in a fast-paced industry didn’t exactly mean job satisfaction for her. So instead, she turned to her love of food and taking risks and laid the groundwork for her culinary empire.

chef Kimberly Lallouz
Chef Kimberly Lallouz

“When you take a risk, you have to stand behind it. When I chose the site for my first restaurant, I took over a space on Bleury Street that once housed a sign company. At the time, there were not many places to eat in that area; it was a place where no business wanted to be,” she said. “I renovated that space on my own while I was working for a catering company. It took so long to build up a clientele, but it happened, even when we were subjected to the constant presence of orange cones on the street and the endless road construction work.”

But a decade after building a strong community with her customers and employees, nothing prepared Ms. Lallouz for the devastating impact that affected businesses – especially restaurants – during the COVID pandemic lockdown. “It put me in a difficult spot, especially when it concerned my employees and I had to make the money stretch for as long as I can,” she said. “I spent a lot of money to make my restaurants COVID safe and train a lot of new staff people. And while that happened, the second wave came and shut us down again, which was quite depressing because not knowing when you can restart again is a very scary proposition. But through all of that, I realized you always have to wake up happy every morning, count your blessings and always find something to do, and do it with gusto.”

And Ms. Lallouz has utilized her “never-say-die” attitude by undertaking some new projects during the worst of the pandemic. She has recently taped a new cooking series in Ottawa called “One Big Recipe”, which will air on the Bell Fibe network in the near future. “On that show, I demonstrate how you can cook a six-course meal for six people and do it without being afraid,” she said. And she is in the midst of writing two cookbooks; one for children, and one that chronicles her travels through the world of vegetarian cooking. However, through all of these recent ups and downs, she is confident that Montreal will maintain its worldwide reputation as a restaurant capitol when the pandemic ends.

“Montreal is a culinary city; this is what we do well and we have more going for us in that respect as a result of this reputation,” she said. “We just have to remain confident that the negative that has arose from the pandemic will eventually turn into a positive in our lives.”

Photos: Ara Sassonian & Ekaterina Ulyanoff

By: Stuart Nulman – [email protected]

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