Samara Lezama is a 25-year-old chef who grew up with her five siblings and parents in the community of D’Abadie. Following her secondary school years at St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain, Samara set foot in Peru to do missionary work, which also allowed her to become fluent in Spanish. After Peru, she decided it was time to pursue her dream of becoming a chef.
It was a dream that she had her mind and heart set on. She started with an unpaid internship at one of the best restaurants in the world —COI in San Francisco. Then, she eagerly started at the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute, from which she graduated in 2018. While at school and just after leaving she was able to travel and work in New York, Basque Country, Munich, widening her culinary horizon in top tier kitchens. Having worked under world class chefs in places like Aquavit and Etxebarri. After working at a 5-star hotel in Munich, Samara returned home and is today the proud chef and owner of her catering company Chef Sampalam. Samara shared more about her journey as a young chef and entrepreneur with the WE mag team. Check out what she had to say to us:
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome and how did you deal with it?
My heart was set on doing my culinary degree abroad, however that never worked out for me. Instead, I travelled and worked at some of the best restaurants in the world (according to the Aqua Panna and San Pellegrino list). I was able to learn not only the school curriculum but I was also taught how to work efficiently and effectively in any kitchen.
What are you working on at present, what is keeping you excited?
Currently, I do daily lunches—so weekly I post a regular menu. I also have a salad menu for the more health conscious. The lunches are coupled with catering events which make for a very busy time and a tired chef. The food keeps me going, the changing menus, the creativity and challenge of fresh ideas, getting to cook exactly what I like to eat and introducing it to the east community keeps me going and motivated.
What is your ultimate goal or biggest dream for your future?
To open a thriving restaurant and become a household name. I already have the name worked out in my head. Now, it is just to see my dream through to fruition. I absolutely love tasting menus and hope to bring it to Trinidad in a manner where we as a society can really appreciate and accept that style of dining.
Tell us something about you that people may not know.
Despite doing knee surgery, I still opted to be a chef.
What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for my family and their unwavering support (especially at ungodly hours of the day).
Do you have any advice for other women who may want to get into the culinary field?
Go for it! Think of an end goal, sit and put pen to paper as to how you need to get there and just start. It’s definitely not going to be easy but trust the process, surround yourself with positivity, do your part and watch things unfold bit by bit.