I never asked Chef João Dias of Montreal’s well-loved Ferreira Café what his middle name is, but it seems likely that it is “Passion,” or perhaps the Portuguese translation. Dias has loved to cook since he was “very young” and began by contributing to his mother’s culinary endeavors back in Portugal, especially during holidays. His grandparents were butchers so he comes honestly by his love of food. You might say this foodie upbringing was the prelude to his eight years at culinary school. After all, there aren’t many young children who love “tasting sausages” and other meats at the butcher. And Dias cannot imagine doing anything other than cooking, as he “prefer[s] stay[ing] 12 hours in the kitchen than six hours in the office.” And that’s no exaggeration: he arrives at the restaurant between eight and nine in the morning and leaves around midnight.

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Dias derives most of his inspiration from Portugal’s kitchens. He explains that the country itself is a place that is “rich gastronomically” and where the food has incredible variety. Though it can be more difficult to purchase choice herbs here, Dias finds this a minor inconvenience and some things, like fresh fish, can be imported directly from Portugal (Ferreira imports twice a week). Working in North America certainly has its rewards though, and Dias is pleased to be here, though he has only lived in Canada for 14 months. He explains that the main differences between being a chef in North America and Europe is that here there is more public exposure and the people are more open minded towards inventive food. This pleases Dias, who enjoys the freedom to “give wings to [his] imagination and make what [he] like[s].

The passion that João Dias exudes is truly inspirational. His bit of advice to culinary-minded readers is that, “when you [cook], do it with passion and love.” That is certainly something that Dias himself brings to the table everyday.

Originally published on cuative.com. Photos Retrieved from Luc Robitaille.

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