Celebrated Canadian chef Connie DeSousa is a mentor to Rafael Covarrubias in the fourth edition of S.Pellegrino Young Chef, the global talent search to find the world's best young chef.
The chef from CHARCUT restaurant in Calgary has made her name in the industry mastering nose-to-tail butchery, cultivating relationships with farmers and artisan producers, and challenging the social norms of women in the professional kitchen.
Connie will also be a seasoned professional when it comes to guiding her mentoree into the bright competition lights, already being a well-known celebrity chef in Canada herself having appeared in numerous cooking shows including Top Chef Canada.
Fine Dining Lovers spoke to Connie ahead of the competition's Grand Finale in Milan in October to find out more about her mentorship role and her cooking philosophy.
Can you remember the moment you decided to become a chef – what inspired you and what obstacles did you overcome to achieve your dream?
Before I became a chef I had a passion for all things food. My earliest influence came from my parents. Both my parents were amazing cooks. In High School, I struggled a bit with what I wanted to do as a career but eventually found a program called Foods, which focused on menu writing, the Canadian food guide and cooking. I remember really taking a serious interest in this class; often studying harder for it than the rest of my academics.
This was a real turning point for me. I'd finally discovered my passion and knew what I wanted to do. I enrolled at SAIT, right out of high school when I was 18, in their professional cooking program. I worked so hard that I received honours and made it on the Dean’s list. It was there that I met my now co-chef and culinary mentor John Jackson, who I credit for helping me see my potential and share his passion with me. He saw my competitive edge and inspired me to compete in my first culinary competition. We can now work together as co-chefs.