Volume 48, Number 3
By: Fatima Siddiqui
[dropcap size=small]F[/dropcap]or Brad Richard, a life behind the stove makes sense. “Growing up, I always had an interest in cooking. [Mom] always had the cookbooks out and was making a different meal every night,” recalls the New Brunswick native.
However, it wasn’t until high school that he really began to whet his appetite for the culinary arts. He often skipped his morning classes to cook. Although he managed to earn his school credits, his parents were not pleased; either way, he made it work. “I wasn’t hearing any complaints when I would leave something freshly baked on the counter for them when they got home,” he jests, adding, “I would conveniently disappear when they got home.”
Intent to learn more, the aspiring toque honed his technique at the Culinary Institute of Canada in P.E.I., which led him to internships in Massachusetts and New York.
After graduating, Richard headed back to P.E.I. to cook at the Inn at Bay Fortune where he met and worked alongside acclaimed chef Gordon Bailey. “Gordon taught me how to apply what I learned in school to real-world restaurant situations,” says Richard. “He inspires me, because he [is] self-taught, has [won] several competitions and owns his own restaurant.” Trailing Bailey’s path, the chef moved to the Inn at St. Peter’s where Bailey promoted him to the role of executive chef.
Tired of working for others, the toque returned home to New Brunswick in search of a new venture. In 2011, he opened Décimal 81 with his parents at 81 Princess St. in Saint John, feeding his flair for classic French cuisine. “French cooking is really what I was taught in culinary school,” he says. “I like the detail and refinement of French cooking; I am growing into my own style of food, but it will obviously always be rooted in French cooking technique.”
Named for its address and as a reference to the French cooking term “au point” (on point), the 45-seat Décimal 81 offers fresh, unprocessed home-style meals. “We [as a community] should look for foods that are properly grown or cultured through a reliable, sustainable source and prepare them without preservatives or over-processing,” he says. The Red Seal-certified chef prepares and plates dishes such as tomato-braised lamb shank with roasted root vegetables ($28), duck breast with celery root frites and wilted greens topped with an orange glaze ($25). He also offers five-course ($55) and seven-course tasting menus ($77).
Moving forward, Richard is looking to refresh Décimal 81, adding seats and a lounge on the upper levels of the three-storey building in which it currently resides. He also plans to travel, broadening his knowledge of different cuisines to further develop his work.
His career continues to be quite a ride, and the 33-year-old is proud of what he’s accomplished, appreciating the feedback for a hard day’s work. “There’s a rockstar-ness to it,” he says. “I’ve gone out to cook a meal for a bunch of people, or a big tasting menu, and walked out into the dining room and [gotten] a standing ovation.” Looks like Richard’s hunger to cook as a teenager — even during the most inopportune times — paid off.