Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is chef Marcus Monteiro, who’s currently leading the kitchen at Toronto’s King West hot spot Brassaii. Find out the inspiration behind his career route and where he sees himself in five years in today’s profile…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I am a chef. I get to create using my hands, educate using my knowledge, and learn from the people who work around me. The art is in matching and layering flavours. The job description itself has no borders; one day I will be on CTV’s Canada AM, the next I will be on the roof changing the fan belts of our HVAC system.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I started working for Brassaii for many reasons, one being it was the perfect fit. Brassaii is a new-age Mediterranean restaurant, and having worked in French and Italian restaurants, staging in Spain, and taking cooking classes in Morocco, it seemed like a natural progression.
My inspiration comes from my parents; they both are extremely hard working individuals, and have taught me that success is usually disguised by hard work. So if you work hard, and work smart, success will follow.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is curating programs. Currently we are developing a cheese program and a meat program, creating in-house aged cheeses and cured meats. The next step will be fermentations and aged infusions.
The most challenging part is finding people to work for you who believe in the story you want to tell and are just as passionate and hard-working.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Simple: my life has become my work. They blend into one another and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still in Toronto running multiple restaurants, maybe a few projects in other countries to feed my research and traveling addiction.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
From an early age, public speaking has always been a fear of mine. To overcome my fear I put myself in Toastmaster classes, started exercising to gain self-confidence, and now I just do it! I am constantly throwing myself into “sink or swim” situations. In my opinion, tough love and getting thrown into the fire is the best way to learn and evolve.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Money satisfies life and fixes problems, but definitely doesn’t equal happiness. Providing happiness and enjoyment through my food – like curing a beautiful piece of pork loin or making the perfect soufflé – is happiness.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
I had the honour of staging (interning) at Noma in Denmark, currently the world’s best restaurant as voted by S. Pellegrino’s Top 50. I had the opportunity to do a “Saturday night project” – presenting your very own dish to the world’s best chefs (on a Saturday night), who will critique it and offer feedback. Hearing Rene Redzepi say he loved my dish was the most exciting and terrifying moment of my culinary career.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Work smart, not hard; work efficiently, not quickly. Networking is now part of your day-to-day life. Always represent yourself the way you want your brand perceived.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Bar Isabel. I find the atmosphere to be comfortable and the food to be delicious and simple. It reminds me of a few places I loved in Spain.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Going to the gym, cleaning the house, ordering in Thai food, and watching hours upon hours of Netflix…
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
San Sebastian, Spain, The Basque Country. In 2012 I had the opportunity to spend six months working at some of the best restaurants in the Basque Country. I fell in love with San Sebastian – surf by day, cook by night.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Darius Rucker – Wagon Wheel
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Full time world traveller! That, or an astronaut… if only I didn’t have a slight fear of heights.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
MS Society, Canada Feed the Children, Canadian Cancer Society and The Covenant House. I am currently working with The Covenant House to employ our community’s under-privileged youths. I will be starting a lab to teach these individuals how to cook easy, inexpensive and simple meals for themselves and their families.
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