The Spice Boss.
By Silvana Fonsêca
With a good dose of creativity and dedication, a native of Recife, Ricardo Wolkoff, brings Brazilian spices to Canadian dishes!
Born from musician parents – he, Benny Wolkoff violinist and maestro; she, Mariza Johnson, cellist – in the state of Recife Ricardo Wolkoff, 41 decided to showcase his artistic blood in another area. It is in the kitchen that this chef harmonizes spices and composes flavours which every day attracts the attention of the clients at the Senzala Restaurant, in charming Montreal. Since his arrival, in June of 2008, this restaurant has gained nine new “dishes of the day” – all of them, of course, named in homage of locations in his birth country.
But this story began a long time ago. Ricardo began sharing his gastronomic gifts with the people closest to him – however, when the idea came up to immigrate to Canada, he saw the opportunity to professionally follow an old dream. He then decided to perfect his art and took a culinary course at the National Service of Commercial Learning (Senac, in Portuguese) and while still in Brazil he worked as a kitchen chef of a well-known restaurant in Recife Antigo (a historical area in town).
The rise of violence in Brazil, a new perspective on life and the will to take Brazilian flavours to Canadian palates were fundamental in his decision to change countries – and so he packed his bags! “Canada, known for being open to immigration and, consequently, to new cultures, would certainly welcome our rich Brazilian cuisine”, he affirms. Luckily, his foresight was right: at the restaurant, the dishes that were typically Brazilian not only were very well accepted as there was a great demand for them. “Many Brazilians come in search of the ‘taste of home’ but we have many Canadians who are always searching to get to know this side of Brazil”, he emphasizes.
And it is precisely this characteristic – the curiosity and the multicultural interest in Montreal – which enchants him and also helped when he was choosing a new place to take his pots and pans and establish a new home. The next step? “I want to open the bistrô of my dreams: full of Brazilian images, sounds, colours, smells and spices.”