Restaurant Helena
By Christine Plante

From Portugal to Montreal

When she arrived in Montreal at the age of 21, Helena Loureiro was teeming with ambition; she wanted to travel, to discover the world and to settle somewhere else other than Portugal, where she was born. She visited New York, Toronto and Vancouver, but it was the Quebec metropolis and its bohemian, European feel that won her over and convinced her to stay awhile. "The first thing I did was enrol at ITHQ (Quebec's Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management)," says Helena. "I thought it was the best way to get settled in."

As a student at the institute, Helena learned the basics of French cuisine, which is mainly based on butter and cream as opposed to olive oil. So Helena, who had started cooking in her grandmother's kitchens at the age of 11, had to rewire the way she worked as she completed her apprenticeships. And now, almost 30 years later, we've come full circle: Helena has returned to her first loves and to her roots. Her typical Portuguese cuisine is now one of the most highly regarded in Montreal.

The first thing I did was enrol at ITHQ; I thought it was the best way to get settled in. - Helena Loureiro
In June 2012, Helena Loureiro opened the restaurant named after her.
In June 2012, Helena Loureiro opened the restaurant named after her. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Helena

Helena, the restaurant

In June 2012, Helena opened her eponymous restaurant, an establishment that quickly won over the public and critics alike. Located in the Old Port of Montreal, one of the most touristic areas of the city, it serves a cosmopolitan clientèle: Portuguese customers coming to discover the authentic flavours of their home country, tourists and the generally curious, but also a whole crowd of regulars.

Everything here has been designed with the greatest taste and attention to detail –think modern setting with red and yellow accents. Portugal shines through in the smallest details not only in the kitchen, of course, but also in the wine list, in the decor, in the music, and even in the sparkling Helena's sunny accent.

Restaurant Helena is located in Montreal.
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Helena

Helena, the woman

Succeeding in the restaurant business is a considerable feat, in and of itself. But Helena also notes that as a woman, the challenges are even more daunting. "As a job, it's very physical, and at the same time we're moms, we have children," she points out.

Helena, now the head of an empire of 107 employees, acknowledges that she has had to impose her strength of character. While remaining fair and honest, she had to stand her ground to get to this point. And we thank her for it, because Montreal would not be the same without Helena!

Restaurant Helena is located in Montreal.
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Helena
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