At just 27 years old, Victoria Vallenilla has taken over the brigade of the COYA Monte-Carlo, which for the past seasons has been sublimating the great classics of Peruvian cuisine with delicate touches of Asian gastronomy. The Venezuelan, who grew up in the Caribbean, has become the Resort and COYA restaurant group’s first female chef. “The restaurant business is a very male-dominated environment. You have to be more assertive and justify your choices more than men” proudly admits this talented young woman.
Victoria dreamed of being an architect as a child but rapidly climbed the kitchen ladder after distinguishing herself at hotel studies in Nice. In 2015, she was a finalist in the TV cooking competition Objectif Top Chef. She trained with Michelin-starred chefs Joël Garault and Benoit Witz after joining the Vistamar at the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, before moving to Alain Ducasse’s Trattoria to enrich her experience. While travelling in Dubai, she discovered COYA’s fusion cuisine. Seduced by the concept, she immediately applied to the COYA Monte-Carlo in 2018 and quickly became chef Fabrizio Fossati’s sous chef.
It was an opportunity to reconnect with the flavours of her youth. “Food is about feelings. I am far from my country. I miss it. It’s a comfort to cook the dishes that take me back to my childhood ". It’s also an opportunity to pay tribute to her child-minder Guadalupe, “an extraordinary cook, who used to prepare lunch for 20 people every day”. Guadalupe was the inspiration for Victoria’s corn empanadas. They are on the COYA Monte-Carlo menu and will soon be on the menu in all COYA restaurants around the world.
The Venezuelan has created other novelties such as crispy chicken popcorn, cooked up after a two-day marinading process. She likes cooking dishes that are naturally light and healthy, with umami, the famous fifth flavour «that rouses the palate and sparkles in your mouth».
Victoria practices foodpairing — the molecular analysis that allows her to develop the best culinary combinations — to create flavour trees. During the March 2020 lockdown, she also took up vegetarian cooking, devising original and nutritious vegan recipes — Arroz Chauffa to name but one — made with seitan, a wheat gluten-based protein to replace tofu. “My work satisfies me so much. It’s a passion, a hobby”, enthuses the young woman who spends at least 12 to 14 hours each day in the kitchen passing on her knowledge to her teams. “It’s an essential investment, synonymous with mouthfeel for customers”.
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