Food is able to satisfy hunger, become a manifestation of love and care, and also be a work of art. The last definition requires a lot of years of experience, work on mistakes, attention to detail, a sincere love of cooking, and talent. This is the perfect recipe for becoming a successful chef.
Olenka Reyes, who is a talented chef and pastry chef, followed a similar path and devoted her entire life to the culinary craft. She used to work in Michelin-starred restaurants, and her dishes were appreciated by the famous chef, known as Massimo Bottura.
Enjoy reading a story about how a girl from Peru succeeded to reach culinary Olympus in the following article.
Education and Early Career Stages
Olenka Reyes was born and raised in Arequipa, Peru, the “White City”, which is famous for its Baroque architecture. It was particularly there, among the colorful southern nature and rich Peruvian culture, where the aesthetic taste and passion for cooking of the future chef was formed. It all started in the home kitchen, where grandmother Armida taught little Olenka how to cook desserts.
“My grandmother Armida made a delicious dessert with beaten egg, sugar and a little black beer, it was something that I loved,” Olenka Reyes recalls her first “master classes” from grandmother.
Also, during her childhood times, she attended her first real chocolatier courses. Once she learned how to make candies, she was able to help her mother financially from time to time by selling them at school. At that moment Olenka realized that she could not only cook for her own pleasure, but also make money doing what she loved.
When the time came to choose which university to enter, a split developed in the family. Despite the fact that the mother fully supported her daughter’s passion for cooking, she used to believe that it was more reasonable to get a more practical education.
Olenka objected and did not want to give up her dream. Seeing her daughter’s steadfastness, Olenka’s mother suggested that she first study business administration, and only then enroll at the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Gastronomy in Lima.
International Experience: Mastering the European and American Cuisine
During her studies, Olenka did not miss the opportunity to enrich her experience and develop a lot of new skills. Therefore, while being a student, she traveled to the USA during the holidays to work at top Ski resorts. There she improved her English and got to know in practice how the work happens in the pastry area. During the last years of her career, she worked at the Popular restaurant and the Swissôtel hotel.
Also during that period, she had the opportunity to work with chef Jaime Pesaque at the 500 Grados restaurant. This job was a real challenge for the young pastry chef, as she had to face the highest standards:
“Here I had the experience of immersing myself in a new concept that was coming to the capital, with a signature pastry that required greater precision and detail. It was quite a challenge for me,” Olenka Reyes notes.
It was during this job that she became interested in French pastries, which became a turning point in Reyes’ career.
European Experience: Traditions Meet Technology
A good chef doesn’t just focus on what he’s been taught. He travels, tastes, learns the tastes and aromas of dishes from other countries, and adds them to his own cooking arsenal.
Therefore, after completing her studies in Peru, Olenka went to Spain, where she worked in the three-star Michelin restaurant ABaC. There she not only deepened her understanding of traditional European cuisine, but also immersed herself in the study of modern molecular confectionery cuisine. This symbiosis of tradition and innovation permitted Olenka to further develop her skills and creativity.
Her talent was noticed and she was given the opportunity to join the team at Osteria Francescana, the best restaurant in the world with three Michelin stars. There she worked under the guidance of the famous chef Massimo Bottura. The maestro appreciated Olenka’s skills when she prepared for him a dessert with lucuma, a fruit of her country, which also contained delicious rum infused with salted chocolate and dark chocolate praline.
Career in San Francisco: a New Career Stage
Olenka’s ability to overcome difficulties and desire for new challenges brought her to San Francisco, where she joined the talented pastry team at One65, a concept of sophisticated French style in four different amazing experiences, one on each floor: a boutique pastry shop, a bar, a bistro, and a gourmet restaurant O´ by Claude Le Tohic, with one Michelin star.
She has not only outstanding skills in diverse culinary styles, but she also has the unique ability to bring her own cultural elements to her dishes, making them truly unique.
Finally, the moment has come when Olenka Reyes not only cooks first-class dishes and pastries, but also brings her vision and cultural background of her own country to her recipes. She is not afraid to experiment and constantly pushes the boundaries of all possible things. And this guarantees an unforgettable experience for those who try her creations.