Born in Aveiro.
Based in Montreal.
I am a great Canadian in Portugal and a great Portuguese in Montreal… Maybe immigration has a lot to do with that…. I tell my friends in Portugal that I am more Portuguese than they are, because I see Portugal with rosy eyes and whatever bad there is in Portugal, for me it doesn’t exist – Carlos Ferreira.
Originally from Estarreja, the restaurateur Carlos Ferreira moved to Montreal with his parents in 1975 at the age of 19. After working a welder, bus boy, waiter, bread delivery driver, and other jobs, Carlos opened Ferreira Café, which became one of the top fine dining restaurants in the city. As the owner of four restaurants and one of the largest importers of wine from Portugal, Carlos has been a leading ambassador of modern Portuguese food and wine culture in Canada.
Carlos Ferreira was born in 1956, in Estarreja, a northern mainland town in the outskirts of Aveiro. In February 1975, at the age of 19, he immigrated to Montreal with his parents, who were in part moved by the economic and political uncertainty in Portugal following the Carnations Revolution, but also by a sense of adventure. His father, who had visited Montreal before, found work at a chemical products factory and his mother worked as a homemaker. Carlos started working as a welder, a trade he learned in Portugal. He combined this with various part-time jobs in the evening, including as a dish washer, busboy, and waitressing in restaurants. Three years after arriving in Canada, Carlos quit his trade and started working as pastry chef assistant in a bakery. But he quickly discovered that he hated that job, so his employer put him to work doing bread deliveries. Carlos would work for that employer for 12 years, during which he was promoted to project manager when it expanded into industrial production and learned about the restaurateur business
In the late 1980s, Carlos opened his first café, which no longer exists. That first experience taught him important lessons that he applied when he opened the fine dining restaurant Ferreira Café in 1998, located in downtown Montreal, which had become one of the most successful of its kind in the city. Since then, Carlos has opened three other restaurants in Montreal: Café Vasco da Gama, Taverne F, and Campo. Each offering different food experiences and clientele. In Carlos’ estimation, 99% of his clients are not Portuguese.
Carlos’ main motivation has been to educate Montrealers about modern and sophisticated Portugal through its extensive gastronomy and wines. Both have been a passion of Carlos, whose restaurant received the Wine Spectator Grand Awards three years in a row. Besides being one of the largest Portuguese wine importers – in 2017, the Ferreira Café opened about 200-300 bottles a day – Carlos is also a wine producer, owning about 52 acres of land in the Douro region. He also produces olive oil and almonds in Portugal.
Altogether, Carlos’ restaurants employ close to 200 people. His family is also involved in running the business, including all of Carlos’ siblings and daughters. In 2014, Carlos handed the daily running of his business to his daughter Sandra Ferreira, who has since been the director of marketing and operations for the Groupe Ferreira. Together with her sister Cláudia, they launched “Portugal Gourmand,” a web documentary series and travel guide featuring food-centric destinations in Portugal and the suppliers of the products used in the Ferreira restaurants.
In addition to his business, Carlos has also been dedicated to social causes as a philanthropist and board member in the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine.
Hora dos Portugueses