In the Kitchen With: Kimberly Lallouz of Miss Prêt à Manger

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“I’m even better at coming up with ideas for other people than I am for myself,” Lallouz shares. The Montreal native has aggressively opened one new foodservice related business per year for the past five years in a rather organic approach — she never planned to be where she is today but new ideas kept coming to her and fulfilling one has naturally led her to the next. This organic process hasn’t stopped.

Today, she is the proud owner of Montreal restaurants, Miss Prêt à Manger, Monsieur Resto & Bar and Le Bird Bar in addition to catering businesses, Petite Miss Prêt à Manger and Miss Tennis. Interestingly, Lallouz didn’t start off in the culinary industry — despite having been a cook for nearly her entire life, she always viewed it as a hobby and saw herself elsewhere, professionally.

After high school, she studied journalism and marketing and, for a few years, built a reputation in the fashion industry, travelling to major cities every month. She soon realized, however, that she was spending more time in her travels, restaurant-hopping and chatting with local chefs than actually working in fashion. After deciding that she needed more creative freedom and control in her career, Lallouz spent three months soul searching and mustering up the courage to do what her intuition had been pointing to all along.

In 2010, Lallouz launched her first project — a catering company called Miss Prêt à Manger — which gave Montreal its first taste of Lallouz’s culinary creations — healthy farm-to-table dishes that source Montreal-grown ingredients as much as possible. “It’s very difficult to stay uber-local in the winter months so I’ll dip a little bit into imports in the very cold months,” Lallouz admits. “Other than that, we try very hard to stay within season, promote as many local farmers and work with companies that have greenhouses, so that we can still remain local even when it’s cold.”

It had hardly been a year since Lallouz had started Miss Prêt à Manger catering, when she decided to expand her catering business to reach more people — but for humanitarian reasons rather than personal gain. Petite Miss Prêt à Manger came to fruition in 2011 as a division of the catering business dedicated to feeding kids from low-income households one free nutritious meal per day at daycare. “We don’t really make any profit on it. But that’s my giveback,” says Lallouz. Petite Miss Prêt à Manger feeds approximately 200 kids each day.

Lallouz’s first restaurant opened its doors in 2012. “People always asked me, ‘Where can I meet you to try samples [of the catering menu]?’ So I thought I’d open something really small and humble,” says Lallouz. When it came time to find a suitable location, it also didn’t hurt that Lallouz had prior experience working in the commercial real-estate industry, which helped her recognize the business potential of a location which few at the time considered a wise choice. “There was nothing to eat [in the area]. Fast-forward six years down the road, there’re plenty of restaurants around me.”

Lallouz’s second restaurant, Monsieur Resto & Bar — conveniently located across the street from her first — opened in 2013. Some menu items at Monsieur Resto & Bar include, Barley Risotto — barley, shaved asparagus, mushrooms, watercress and spinach ($15); organic stuffed chicken breast — apricot, prunes and ricotta, Jerusalem artichoke purée, sautéed vegetables and creamy champagne and paprika sauce ($26); and giant organic beef cheeseburger — organic jalapeno-infused beef patty, fried green tomato and cheese, fresh tomato, arugula and spicy mayo, served with fries and salad ($26).

Simultaneously operating three businesses might be quite a feat for the average entrepreneur but Lallouz has consistently proven to be anything but average — soon after launching Monsieur Resto & Bar, she went back to the drawing boards to plan an expansion to her catering efforts and in 2014 opened Miss Tennis. As the name implies, Miss Tennis caters to sporting events and teams — such as the Rogers Cup, the Alouettes and the Canadiens.

Her latest restaurant, Le Bird Bar, located in Griffintown on 1800 Notre-Dame West, aims to bring a unique twist to fried chicken. It caters to a wide variety of customers by offering gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian mock-chicken options along with 13 sides and 13 sauces.

When asked how she has managed to accomplish so much so early in her career, Lallouz explains that “Everything again was just super organic like, ‘Oh the space next-door is available. Why don’t I consider expanding into that space?’ It just happened.”

What Lallouz describes as “organic” alludes to her knack for seizing opportunities when she sees them, whereas most others would be fraught with or paralyzed by fear. Of course, like everyone, Lallouz too battles with some self-doubt and anxiety on occasion — she admits to having felt self-conscious in the early years about not going to culinary school. On such occasions, she always remembers a piece of advice that she’s received from more than one mentor over the years — “if you have it, don’t change or ruin it by trying to learn from the beginning and enrolling in culinary school.” Well, we certainly think she’s got it!

Volume 49, Number 8
Written By Eric Alister

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