Hi I’m Chelsia, I was born and raised in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada (yes, Toronto really isn’t the capital!) to Azorean parents. The Azores is a small group of Portuguese islands with a population of around 250,000. Cooking was a very important part of my upbringing, my Father was a chef in the military as a young adult and his passion for cooking was contagious. If I weren’t in the kitchen helping my Father then I was with my Grandmother, both of whom would always cook the ‘Portuguese way’! I love how food has the ability to invoke memories, Portuguese dinner times are full of passion and the food takes my family back home to the island. Cooking isn’t about putting ingredients together and making something taste good, it’s about bringing people together, sharing stories and making new stories to share.
After I discovered the Food Network TV channel, I became obsessed with food. It was this that led me to get my first job as a Kitchen Porter at a family run authentic Italian restaurant. In between washing dishes, making fresh bread and pasta, I would always find time to have a cheeky look into the kitchen to watch the chefs do their magic. Soon enough I was promoted into the kitchen where all I wanted to do was learn as much as possible and spent the next three years doing so. At 17 I took the decision to further my studies at Algonquin College Culinary School where my course involved a placement at a high-end steak restaurant. It was here I had one of my favourite claims to fame – making a cob salad for Barrack Obama.
I graduated and a month later moved to England soon after turning 19. My first full time role in a kitchen was at The Apollo Hotel, Basingstoke, a 4 star hotel that had a fine dining restaurant, brassier, and function room all catered by one kitchen. This was my first taste of cooking English food, but it was the first taste of an English kitchen that was the biggest change. English kitchens are full of emotion, they’re hectic and if you don’t learn fast you drown – for which you certainly won’t get any sympathy. Having had a peak into fine dining, I wanted to explore cooking with the best ingredients and my career took me to the Four Seasons Hotel at Park Lane and had the opportunity to cook with ingredients shipped in from around the world, creating extravagant dishes.
Having relocated to Maidenhead, I started working at Heston Blumenthal’s The Crown at Bray – a 14th century inn serving high quality pub food and had my first opportunities to run a kitchen as the chef in charge. As the restaurant was in such an old building, often there would be 6 chefs in a space not much bigger than some bus stops serving over 200 covers – it made for some interesting moments but I loved the working environment in Bray. I was fortunate enough a few years later to move to Heston’s flagship restaurant, The Fat Duck one of just four three Michelin starred restaurants in the UK working under Executive Head Chef Jonny Lake and Head Chef Ed Cooke. The Fat Duck serves a 17 course tasting menu created by a brigade of ~30 chefs, attention to detail is taken to a new level and the adrenaline of working in such a high paced environment will keep you awake even after the typical 18 hour working day. Since then I have been fortunate enough to work for other highly acclaimed chefs such as Tom Kerridge and have discovered my love for creating dishes.
Learning for me has always been the key to being a great chef, in cooking there is no end and there is always more to discover and developing dishes is an exciting avenue to do that. I am very excited to take this next step with Aquaforno to help develop and create dishes that people can enjoy in the comfort of their own garden, in the middle of a field or in a campsite by the river; so they can bring people together, tell stories and make new stories to share. The Aquaforno is an exciting way to take outdoor cooking to the next level and with a little help from the team and I we can show you how easy it is to create mouth-watering food wherever you are.