Chez Lévêque
By YP Contributor

How it all Began

Chef Pierre Lévêque, born in the French town of Luçon, Vendée (where, for the record, Cardinal Richelieu once served as bishop) helped a group of Montreal businessmen by relaunching their restaurant on Laurier Street in Outremont.

The trial run was a success and Pierre agreed to continue the venture on the condition that he buy the business and the building. Six months later, it was a done deal. The year was 1972 and the future looked promising.

We needed to be known for what represented us best: a French brasserie. - Patricia Lévêque, co-owner
Chez Lévêque owners Peter and Patricia Lévêque, with the restaurant's maître d' Yann Nkanko.
Chez Lévêque owners Peter and Patricia Lévêque, with the restaurant's maître d' Yann Nkanko. Photo by Jacques Bérubé.

Changing its Image

La Lucarne restaurant began as a steakhouse, with a menu for businessmen: steak, baked potatoes, cabbage salad, a little wine and lots of beer. Over time, Pierre changed the menu to include veal paté, seafood, oysters, kidneys and sweetbreads.

In 1976, Patricia Lévêque joined Peter. Her training in public relations naturally led to her working the front-of-house, and her love of cooking, combined with her Malagasy origins, saw her introduce island spices to the menu in the form of chutneys and curries. "I was born in Madagascar," says Patricia. "My father came from Reunion Island and my grandmother was in Saigon. I love cooking and I'm fairly good at this exotic cuisine, having inherited a little know-how."

Chef Peter Lévêque creating delicious dishes his kitchen.
Chef Peter Lévêque creating delicious dishes his kitchen. Photo courtesy of Chez Lévêque

Out of La Lucarne — Chez Leveque

La Lucarne celebrated its 20th year in 1992. It seemed the perfect time to make a change. Peter and Patricia wanted to create an establishment that truly reflected their vision of the restaurant business. "With La Lucarne, we had bought as is, but it wasn't really us. We needed to be known for what represented us best: a French brasserie," says Patricia.

After making some major changes, La Lucarne became Chez Lévêque, a Parisian brasserie, where you can "do business and share ideas" at any time of day over a good meal.

Since then, there have been many ideas shared at Chez Lévêque — politicians, entrepreneurs and celebrities from Gilles Vigneault to Robert Bourassa and Jacques Parizeau, have all eaten at Chez Leveque, tasting the dishes that have made it famous: black pudding, bouillabaisse and tartares. "One of my greatest pleasures has always been to enjoy the cuisine of my chef and husband, Peter! And we still share the happiness that is a full table," says Patricia with a big smile.

One of the humours posters on the walls at Chez Lévêque.

Interesting Posters

To mark the birth of Chez Lévêque, Jean Gamache created an advertising campaign that riffed on the name's ecclesiastical side ('l'éveque' meaning 'the bishop' in French) with a cheeky but respectful sense of humour.

The ad campaigns won several awards from the Publicité Club de Montréal and later from Infopresse. The artist, Cedric Loth, took over to create original posters for different events such as Lévêque Homard Premier (the First Bishop Lobster) or the service de Lévêque (the Bishop's Service) for the Rogers Cup Tournament in Montreal.

The works are displayed on the walls of Chez Lévêque as well as on the menus and gift cards. Its advertising has become an essential ingredient in the branding of this institution, which is proof of the miracle that occurs when good food is married with a love of life.

One of the humours posters on the walls at Chez Lévêque.

Remaining Current

For the restaurant to remain current, the owners don't take anything for granted. Peter and Patricia generate the interest in both the food critics in traditional media as well as the "foodies" and bloggers of the new. Patricia reads everything that is published in terms of cuisine; news columns, books and websites, as well as watching all of the TV shows. "This job is a pleasure, not a duty," she says. "I listen to everything that is said. I read everything to find out what the chefs are doing, not only here, but around the world. It has to be done."

Chez Lévêque also supports the development of the restaurant business in Quebec through the Pierre Lévêque Scholarship, awarded annually by the Institute of Tourism and Hospitality of Quebec (ITHQ) to a young chef to help them go into business.

Peter and Patricia continue their mission so that their institution will long remain a place where locals share ideas, opinions and jokes while taking time to savour the pleasures of a full table.

The busy outdoor terrace at Chez Lévêque.
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