Havre-aux-Glaces: The Self-Taught Ice Cream Man
Richard Lachapelle still fondly remembers the “Monsieur Cornet” truck that used to cruise his childhood neighbourhood. “At the time, all he had was soft ice cream which wasn’t really good. Yet, it was always an event!” he says. “He would come by once or twice a week and, with his music and bell, you could hear him coming from a distance.”
It was only later that Richard fell in love with artisanal ice cream. “The first ones I tasted were at Roberto’s. I would drive from Blainville to Bélanger Street, in Rosemont, to get 500 ml or 1-litre ice cream pots. I drove all that way because I was determined to get good ice cream. But most of the time, because I didn’t want it to melt, I’d end up eating the whole thing before I go back home,” he says, laughing.
The Havre-aux-Glaces Genesis
In 2004, a few years later, his brother Robert, a tax expert by profession, decided to open an ice cream shop at the Jean-Talon Market after being sold on the idea during a trip to South America. “We’re a family of foodies!” Richard tells us, in a great burst of laughter.
By a twist of fate, Richard originally studied cooking before opting for a career in the construction industry. “I’d never made ice cream, but I had some basic skills,” he says. “At first, I wasn’t part of my brother’s plan, but since I was in the building business, I helped him set up his shop. That’s when he offered me a partnership.” Overnight, the brothers started testing recipes to find the winning formulae.
“Developing the recipes was a lot of work,” says Richard. “My brother even created an Excel document to determine the right amount of sugar to add to our recipes based on the sweetness of each fruit!” Thanks to this system, it’s now easy as pie for the team to develop new flavours while they focus on creating by-products, like ice cream cakes and home-made waffle cones.
A Recipe for Success
A year after opening the first shop, the two brothers opened another at the Atwater Market, and two more over time. Today, Robert Lachapelle stands alone at the helm of these four shops, while Robert, still a shareholder, retired from day-to-day operations in 2018. But Richard remains true to the mission the brothers established in 2004: to offer simple and accessible products made with the highest quality ingredients available, be it fruits, chocolate, vanilla or nuts.
“Some people criticize me for not being more daring in creating unusual flavours, but I like to keep it simple. Why complicate things when it’s good without all the fuss? I want to taste the strawberry, the raspberry, the passion fruit in my sorbets. I have a hard time with blending. There’s no need to add herbs or spices to add value. I know this is a business where you have to constantly redefine yourself, but I’ve never done things that way,” says the purist, who doesn’t skimp on quality raw ingredients, from the Papua New Guinean vanilla he uses to make his own vanilla extract to the pistachios he roasts in his kitchen.
Still, keeping up with the trend, the ice cream maker always prefers featuring local ingredients: strawberries, maple products from the Mauricie region (whose quality is superior because of the cooler climate, according to him), sea buckthorn, Saskatoon berries, etc. His menu also includes several vegan ice creams and sorbets made with coconut milk.
His latest project? Popsicles! “I’ve been working for a few years now to obtain the perfect texture, homogenous and without ice flakes,” he says, adding that the recipe still needs to be fine-tuned before popsicles find their way to the counters of Havre-aux-Glaces. We just can’t wait to taste them!
Quick Questions to Richard LachapelleDescribe the market’s vibe in a few words…
The conviviality and family spirit among the merchants. We have a special relationship with our customers, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.What are the must-have products at your ice cream shop?
There are so many! I must never run out of chocolate ice cream, or lemon, mango and raspberry sorbet. Those are the classics. I’m also quite unique in offering flavours like my Papua New Guinean vanilla ice cream or my soursop sorbet, an exotic fruit that grows in South America that tastes a bit like jujubes.Of the hundred or so flavours you have created over the years, which one do you like best?
I’m a real chocolate lover. I like the creaminess and richness of our chocolate ice cream, which is made from premium cocoa. I like to pair a citrus sorbet with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. In fact, every time I eat ice cream, I add a scoop of chocolate!
Read all the FAMILY PORTRAITS
Producers, merchants and artisans together make up the Montréal Public Markets’ extended family. For years, often for generations, they’ve been getting up early, experimenting, sometimes starting over, nurturing, harvesting and flourishing! Day after day, they stand proudly behind their stalls as if by their own dining-room table, inviting us to feast. They’re the heart and soul of the markets – their very essence – and the reason we keep coming back. The Family Portrait series aims to pay tribute to all the pillars of our public markets.This project is funded through the Programme Proximité of the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation, a program implemented under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership according to an agreement between the governments of Canada and Québec.