Growing up in India, Valentino Pereira was surrounded by what he believes to be some of the world's best plant-based food but was never given the opportunity to work with it until this past year.
Recently, the Michelin Star Chef and 2016 Chopped Canada winner has taken on a new challenge by transitioning from working in a luxury restaurant kitchen to the plant-based food world by becoming the executive chef at Glory Juice Co.
"The transition has been good; it's a matter of time before people eventually realize that a plant-based diet is a lot more healthy," said Pereira. "It's also been good because I've done Ayurvedic food pop-ups even before I was with Glory, so I was always aware, and I think it's important."
Pereira began his culinary career working in five-star restaurants throughout India in 2000. Three years later, he was living in the UK working in restaurants run by the late Gary Rhodes.
"I was fortunate enough to work with Gary Rhodes, who was a Michelin star chef in the UK," Pereira said. "I started working with him, working my way up to take over the restaurant for him."
From there, Pereira was lofted into the high-end dining world, assist chefs like Rhodes and Marco Pierre White with the opening of restaurants on cruise ships and in England.
His career would receive a major boost when he began working in Rhodes's world-renowned Rhodes Twenty Four restaurant in London.
Soon after, he was reconnected with his roots and became the executive sous chef at Quilon, the only 1 Michelin star South Indian Restaurant in the world.
Coming to Canada
On a whim, Pereira and his wife decided to move from England to Vancouver in 2012.
"I just submitted my visa papers but didn't expect much," Pereira said.
Now on Canada's West Coast, Pereira would become chef de cuisine at North Vancouver's Pier 7 and later at UBC. He was also the executive chef at the Sylvia's Restaurant and Lounge in Vancouver's West End.
While he may have worked in Michelin Star kitchens, Pereira's crowning achievement was winning Chopped Canada, taking home the coveted $10,000 prize. "The reason I did the challenge was to open a restaurant someday in the future," Pereira said in an interview.
Working with plant-based food has been different, according to Pereira. He says high-end restaurants commonly use animal fats or by-products to add rich and umami flavour, something he can't do at his current position.
"There is a huge difference making plant-based food, especially with my culinary background; we use a lot of cream and butter; it's used in pretty much everything," he said.
Despite being at odds, Pereira believes his creativity and the use of spices is how he can pack so much flavour into his new creations.
And whether he's working in Michelin Star restaurants or making plant-based salads bowls, Glory head chef Valentino Pereira believes being consistent defines him as a chef.
"You can make the best food, but if you're not consistent, it doesn't mean anything," Pereira said.
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