After graduating with merit from Capsicum Culinary Studio last year, 22-year-old South African Ricardo Queiroz is living in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in the US and working at the Club Car Restaurant – one of the best eateries on the island.
Queiroz grew up in Edenvale and attended Edenglen High School. “I have tons of fond memories of that school,” he says.
“One of the aspects I loved most about the school and the area I grew up in was the diversity; the different people and cultures which is something I really appreciated.”
With working parents, the young Queiroz would often take over duties in the kitchen preparing dinner for the family.
“This is where my love for cooking began as I would help my mother out on days where she would come home really tired and I would cook for the family. The more I cooked, the more I wanted to try new things and cook new dishes that I had never tried before.”
After leaving high school, Queiroz decided to enroll at Capsicum and further his knowledge about food and the culinary industry with hopes of pursuing a career in it.
“I enrolled at the Capsicum Rosebank campus and studied for a diploma in cooking and food preparation, graduating with merit last year,” he says. “The course was really awesome and I made a lot of friends who were also interested in food just as much as I was.
“During my time at Capsicum I had loads of great opportunities to cook at fun events such as the Korean Food and Film Festival and the Robertsons Spice pop up kitchen in Melrose Arch. I also got to work with some celebrity chefs.”
The young graduate went on to do his industry placement at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sandton, working at action stations, interacting with guests – both local and international – and also working the hot line in the sauté and grill positions.
“My time at the hotel was a great learning experience for me, and I really learnt a lot,” he says.
After his industry placement, Queiroz signed up with Workaway International for their summer programme and was offered a six month position at the Aberdeen Golf & Country Club in Boynton Beach in Florida in the US.
“It was one of best experiences of my life as I learnt so much, made so many friends, met my girlfriend – whom I plan to marry one day – and saw so many beautiful parts of Florida, including Disney World.
“After my contract expired I applied for a job at the Club Car Restaurant in Nantucket and was lucky enough to get it. It is one of the best restaurants on the island with executive chef Mayumi Hattori who is well known in the industry and has worked with many famous chefs such as Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette.
“It has been another great experience so far. I’m cooking the best food I have in my short career and I am continuing to learn as much as I can.”
Working at the restaurant as a hot line cook and manning the plancha (griddle) and sauté stations is by no means easy work, and Queiroz regularly works 11-hour shifts – from noon to 11pm – six days a week.
“It’s hard work but it is so worth it,” he says. “Every day I feel like I’ve accomplished something good.
“On my days off I usually spend time with my girlfriend, who lives in New York but comes to see me every two weeks, and we explore the island, eat out and go to the cinema. I’m loving America so far.”
Despite his hectic schedule, we did get this busy young chef to answer a few personal questions.
What would be on the menu for your last meal?
It would have to be an authentic Indian butter chicken with naan bread. It’s my favourite dish and is something I’ve cooked for myself many times since I’ve been in the US.
What do you dislike eating?
Mealies! I don’t mind corn incorporated into food, I just don’t like eating it off the cob.
Name three ingredients always in your fridge
Eggs (they are so versatile and are the Swiss army knife of the food world), chocolate (I am a self-confessed chocoholic), and avocados as they are tasty as well as healthy.
What is the one piece of kitchen equipment you could not live without
My chef knife as I use it for everything and it is an extension of any chef’s body.
Who is your food hero?
That would have to be my mother. Without her I wouldn’t have found my love for cooking.
What do you miss most about South Africa?
The people, the food and driving a manual car! Every car in America seems to be an automatic.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
My dream is to one day open my own bistro in New York or LA and that’s what I plan to work towards in the next five years.