Whatever you do, don’t visit Larissa’s Instagram page when you are hungry – the posts are delicious.

I had the opportunity to chat with her one evening and she has had such an interesting life. She is a passionate foodie, wine connoisseur and world traveler – now you can get to know her a little bit too!


Larissa Beznaczuk-Smyrnew
Catering and Events Team Manager, La BOTTEGA – Catering

 La BOTTEGA | Ottawa, ON

How did you get into the wine and food industry?

A trip to Tuscany. Sounds like a movie but it’s true. I had always loved the entire food and wine culture and worked part time at restaurants and catering companies while going to school but never thought of making it a career. I was working in healthcare research and disliking it that I just woke up one morning, quit my job and within the next two weeks was on a plane to Europe immersing myself in all things food and wine. It was there that I realized this was truly my passion and that I had to give it an honest try. I came back and started working full-time in a kitchen trying to learn everything possible.

Tell us a bit about La BOTTEGA – Catering and the services offered.

La BOTTEGA is first and foremost a fine food shop offering the best of everything Italian. It was only natural for us to do catering. We are now a full service caterer which means we can do everything from a few simple salumi and cheese platters to full service weddings and parties. We do specialize in Italian style breakfasts, lunches, dinners and cocktail parties.

What is a typical day like for you?

6am – Greco or run – my day must begin with exercise.

7am – Call catering department, make sure all is organized for the day, go over any questions.

8 – 9am Double illy cappuccino. From then till about lunchtime I work together with the amazing catering team so that all breakfasts and lunches get out the door in a timely manner and with all components. Then dinner time preparation begins. All throughout the day I am constantly taking calls, writing proposals, sending out quotes, following up. It’s a constant cycle but I love it.

They say that people eat with their eyes first. When you set up at a venue – how important is the presentation of the food? How do you pay attention to small details?

I think the presentation is very important however at the end of the day it all comes down to taste. I hate when you take a bite of food from a beautifully presented plate and it doesn’t live up to the presentation. Catering is all about paying attention to the small details. After years of experience there is a checklist engrained into my brain.

What are some of La BOTTEGA – Catering’s most popular menus items?

Our legendary sandwich platters. Our salumi and cheese platters are a close second and in my opinion simply the best in the city – we carry the best brands from Italy and local ones as well, we process so much that it is always so fresh.

Creating a realistic menu and schedule – is sometimes difficult in the catering business. How do you work with clients to find that right balance?

Be real from the beginning, discuss budget and expectations.

What are the newest food trends you’re seeing in the industry?

Functional foods and nutraceuticals – foods with added health benefits are just exploding. Shops are lined with a record number of products that have that extra dose of omega 3, flax, chia, coconut water, etc.

Where did your passion for food and wine come from?

My parents. I grew up in the kitchen, my parents always let me participate in the preparation of the meal and dinners were always a big thing. They taught me that when you entertain always go all out, bring out the best dishes, buy the best you can and pour your guests the best wine you have. We traveled extensively and while maybe at the time I did not appreciate it I have the memories. I remember being 6 years old in Napa getting orange juice while my parents tasted wines but I found it all so fascinating.

I love cooking at home – I usually don’t follow a recipe – I’d rather just experiment and hope for the best. Do you get the opportunity to cook a lot at home? When you do, what do you like to cook?

I never follow a recipe but at the same time own hundreds of cookbooks which I flip through on a regular basis. I think experimentation and using recipes as a guideline is really how you learn to cook. I cook a few times a week, simple things but always using the best ingredients I can. When I cook it’s always Mediterranean – lots of olive oil, tomatoes, fish, capers and herbs.

What is your favourite drink?

Non-alcoholic: Espresso
Alcoholic: Champagne Billecart Salmon Brut Rose

What is your favourite meal?

My most recent favourite meal was at NOPI in London from the Ottolenghi team. All dishes stood out especially this remarkable Valdeón cheesecake with pickled beetroot, hazelnut & thyme honey with a Chenin Blanc from the Loire. The entire dining experience was perfect from start to finish.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?


Who are some of your favorite celebrity Chefs?

Jamie Oliver and Mario Batali. They are formally trained chefs to begin with who happened to build wonderful businesses based on that.

If you had your own show on the Food Network, what would it be about?

Everyday we say that we should have a reality show here, it would be hilarious. There is so much going on: grocery store, cafe, coffee bar, catering, cooking & wine classes, family and friends dropping by, etc. – how it all comes together and finishes on a daily basis is the most beautiful organized chaos I have ever seen. We have the best group of people here, there is lots of hard work but there is also so much laughter which I think other people would find entertaining.

Since we are a fashion and beauty blog, would you mind answering some personal questions?
Do you have a daily beauty routine?

Greco Lean & Fit Classes and Elemis cream – I swear this is a de-aging cream, you can only buy it in the UK and it is worth every penny.

How would you describe your personal style?

Classic and comfortable.

Let’s hear some of your favourites…
piece of clothing you own: all of my cashmere sweaters
pair of shoes: Italian flats
place to shop: Banana Republic – 95% of my wardrobe
hair product: Frederic Fekkai Shampoo
makeup must have: Jane Iredale Powder

What is your favorite way to pamper yourself?

Le Nordik and Hot Stone Massages.

Finally pick three words that describe you best.

Friendly. Dedicated. Passionate.