MENU Magazine is thrilled to shine a light on RC Show 2022 Garland Canada Culinary Competition first-place winner and Chef De Cuisine at La Palma, Toronto, Chef Samantha Medeiros.
Taking part in the RC Show’s 2022 Garland Canada Culinary Competition was a way for Samantha Medeiros, Chef De Cuisine at Toronto-based, California cool meets Italian eatery, La Palma, to go beyond her day job to keep learning and growing. “Being given the opportunity to showcase everything I’ve been working on is an honor and it would mean the world to me,” she explains in her video submission. “To have the chefs and leaders I look up to respect and not only recognize my hard work but reward me for it.” And reward her for it they did, as she won first place and fan favourite of the 2022 culinary competition.
The annual contest which cumulates in a live competition at the RC Show supports Canada’s thriving and passionate culinary industry by showcasing top emerging talent. This year’s event included both a virtual and live component, with each round challenging chefs to craft a dish reflecting the theme of “Revival”, striking a balance between profitability, quality and sustainability.
Growing up in a Greek and Portuguese household in Toronto, Chef Medeiros didn’t experience a very food focused environment. “We were always on the go and I often found myself eating frozen food,” she says. “The only TV I ever watched was the Food Network, which peaked my interest in cooking. I wanted to be the next Jamie Oliver or Giada De Laurentiis.”
Chef Medeiros entered the Culinary Management program at George Brown in 2013, supporting herself by working at popular Toronto restaurants such as Mercatto and Richmond Station until graduation in 2015, when she moved to Grignan, France for six months to assist in opening a small French Bistro. Shortly after returning home to continue working at Richmond Station, Chef Medeiros once again caught the travel bug and in 2017 moved to Hong Kong to join boyfriend Farzam Fallah, ex-pastry chef at Richmond Station, to work as the Chef de Tournant for the Black Sheep Restaurant Group. A year after working in Hong Kong, they embarked on a tour across Asia and Europe, visiting 29 different cities in three months. “This is where my love for travel and learning about foods from different cuisines really sparked,” she says. “I loved being able to convey memories from abroad, or different traditions/techniques through a plate, and have loved communicating that way ever since I made that realization.”
In 2018, Chef Medeiros found herself back in Toronto working at La Palma as a wood fire grill cook, quickly advancing to the Sous Chef role when the second floor restaurant, Casa La Palma, opened later that year. This past January, she was promoted to Chef de Cuisine at La Palma, finding herself a mentor to the next generation of cooks, something she takes very seriously having experienced challenges finding a mentor herself throughout her career. “Being a young female chef, I was often discounted for my age, size or gender – being told I couldn’t get promoted just made me hungrier to prove myself. I was once told that when everyone is wearing their chef whites, the rest shouldn’t matter and I’ve done my best to remember that every time I feel like I’m being held back or judged for who I am.”
Chef Medeiros didn’t hold back in the final competition presenting her winning dish of Striploin Kofta with Spicy Mustard Micro Green Lavash Cracker, Turmeric Ginger Peanut Yogurt Sauce, Agrodolce Zucchini, and a Fresh Tomato and Breakfast Radish Salad. With the theme being sustainability, Chef Medeiros chose to use animal products in moderation, and to highlight more vegetable products. She also wanted her dish to be sustainable across all restaurant models – indoor dining, take out, food truck – and beyond even the products, thinking about the ease in which her team could recreate the dish. “Now more than ever we need to train our new staff to execute quickly, even though their experience levels may vary,” she says. “I believe the revival of the industry lays in how we take care of those who are in it, and to me this is one way to help assemble a sustainable team and my way of addressing one of the biggest challenges ahead of us. It’s about those who show up every single day to give great food and service.”
Always striving to broaden her definition of what being a chef means and how to relate to people, Chef Medeiros took advantage of free time during the pandemic to try out new ways to connect to people. Through Zoom, she was able to teach classes on content creation, and created a sub-business with her boyfriend including catering and pop-ups, and even an Instagram account called @ourkitchenpassport.
“I feel like I’ve very much been in the up and coming stage for the past couple years in my career”, she says “and I’m looking forward to what opportunities might be next.”
Chef Medeiros shares with us one of her favourite desserts to make, a classic French pastry called Tarte Bourdaloue, (a pear and almond tart). “I learned to make it in culinary class and fell in love with the flavour of almond frangipani and vanilla poached pears in the delicate dough. It wasn’t until I moved to France that I got to try it first-hand.” The simplicity of the ingredients and the ability to find delicious in season pears all year round in Canada is what inspired the recipe and like all great food, it transports Chef Medeiros to another place. “I tend to make this whenever I miss living in France; there’s an odd sense of nostalgia I get when I eat this. If I close my eyes and dream hard enough, I can almost feel like I’m sitting in a café in Provence again.”
Samantha’s ‘must-have’ pantry items are: ·
- Olive Oil