Those who know Yves Menard, chef and owner of Charlie’s on the Lake, might imagine a gourmet meal the likes of which could grace a specials menu at Omaha’s top seafood restaurants.
Yet dishes like fried chicken wings, vegetable barley soup, and homemade pepperoni pizza are more likely to be on the family dinner menu. The chef de cuisine at the Menard household on Thursday nights is a rotation of the family’s teenaged children.
The tradition started about four years ago when Yves, his wife Pamela, and the children moved into a home that abuts Tiburon Golf Course in Gretna.
The kitchen is outfitted with a double oven, granite countertops, an electric cooktop, and plenty of space for the slicing, dicing and chopping that Sheridan, Sierra, Montana, and Carolina do when it is their turn to prepare dinner. Yves and Pamela’s older children—Jaimee, Dakota, Houston, and Cheyenne—no longer live at home but sometimes cook when they are with the family.
“They love it because it’s the one night that they’re going to have a meal they know they like,” Pamela says. “It’s nice because we’re all there together.”
Most meals in the household are healthy, although it is hard to please everyone’s palate in a large family. The kids like using the veggie spiralizer for dishes such as fresh zucchini spaghetti and savory meat sauce, or using the air fryer to crisp sides such as hand-cut sweet potato fries.
The children find recipes on social media networks or smartphone apps. The latest trend in the Menard household is an Instant Pot pressure cooker.
“We’ve never had the same thing twice,” Pamela says.
Pamela, a mental health therapist for the Methodist Hospital Community Counseling Program, says dinner is usually followed by a family home evening, a practice in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where scripture and a short lesson are integrated into a family night. Many congregants have their family home evenings on Mondays, but between church, school activities, and Yves’ job, the Menards realized Thursday evenings work best for them.
“That’s our one night that we can get the whole family together and sit down, have a prayer, eat some dinner, and enjoy our time together,” Yves says. “It’s pretty important to us.”
Yves also appreciates not having to prepare food when he gets home after working long hours at the restaurant. He always looks forward to the home-cooked meals, even those nights that his kids take a shortcut so they have enough time to finish their homework.
“It is kind of fun watching them suffer a little bit on Thursday nights trying to make dinner for everybody,” Yves says. “It could be something simple, or it could be hamburgers, or it could be salad and lasagna. You never know what those children have in mind.”
When the kids aren’t in charge, Yves says his favorite meal is grilled steaks eaten out on the patio. The family uses the grill often enough in the summer that Yves had a local welder create a massive 12-seat metal table for the family to gather around—with room for a few friends—on the home’s backyard patio.
The 58-year-old chef has been working in kitchens since age 14. Yves was born in Montreal, Quebec, and started his career in a pizza parlor washing pans, then delivering and making pizzas. His first chef job took him to the Arctic Circle, and that experience led him from Canada to the United States.
“Some people who were up there polar-bear hunting asked me to come work for them in Dallas, Texas,” Yves says. “Then I came and worked here for a company that had a bunch of franchise restaurants, and I worked doing research and development.”
Yves opened the first Austin’s Steakhouse in Omaha in 1986. He opened Charlie’s on the Lake in 1995, and he has spent nearly the past quarter-century managing that establishment.
Charlie’s is a favorite spot for many in the area and has earned recognition for martinis, patio dining, and seafood in recent years. The menu is seafood-forward but also includes chicken, steak, prime rib, pasta, and salad entrees—reflecting many dishes that Yves learned throughout his career.
“We’re not afraid to make specials every day,” Yves says. “If you look at our menu, we have Spanish food on there. We have French food on there. We have two of my favorite dishes from culinary school in Montreal.”
His family travels a lot, although Yves says he intends to stay in Omaha because he enjoys the quality of life, even as his family has spread out to Minnesota and Florida.
“The sign says, ‘Nebraska…the good life,’ and it’s actually a fact,” Yves says. “Our life is simple, it really is, and fulfilling.”
Visit charliesonthelake.net for more information about Yves’ restaurant.
This article was printed in the June 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.