What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My background is, believe it or not, chemical engineering. I completed my degree in 2005 but I always had a passion for food and the gastronomic traditions of my country. I guess the chemist side of me is always looking for the right combination of flavours in my dishes.
I always wanted to have my own place, when I was 27 I purchased a small café back in Venezuela, where we served soups along with traditional finger food. After this experience (this business didn’t last long as we had to leave our country as expatriates) I started organizing cooking classes for my friends in every country we’ve lived. Once we arrived in Malaysia there were many people who knew my talent for cooking from references. This allowed me to open a catering business in March 2014 targeting mainly the Latin-American community in Kuala Lumpur. After almost three years I had the opportunity to open my own restaurant in this wonderful place. El Maiz is the result of many years of experiences and challenges.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is that it gives me the opportunity to be creative. Since opening the restaurant I have combined the Asian flavours into the Venezuelan arepa, as the versatility of it makes it easy to combine different tastes. As a result, we offer now arepas stuffed with options such as seafood tom yum and rendang meat.
The worst part of my job I can say is the time that I have to spend away from my home and daughter. Although she enjoys coming to our restaurant, for her every day is a “fiesta” in El Maiz.
What’s your favourite meal/ drink in El Maiz?
My favourite drinks are the passion fruit shake and of course our “papelon con limon,” which is a mix of raw sugar cane and lime juice. In regards to food, I can’t resist the empanadas. All options are delicious.
What’s one of the wildest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
The grand opening day was the hardest day since we opened for business. We were expecting a fair number of visitors, but it turned out to be more than 250 people in our small area. Everyone was ordering and it was a really a tough test for our guys. Everyone performed as expected and at the end of the night, we were super tired but really proud of ourselves. Everyone was happy with the food and drinks regardless of the longer than usual waiting time.
The perfect day off would be…
A trip to Qatar to visit my husband (who lives and works there), and be there with our family. He travels here often and we try to do the same and surprise him with a visit as often as we can.
A day in the life of a chef is…
That’s a long list to remember. We can say that my day includes: knowing new people, facing constant challenges, a lot of pressure and of course at the end of each day the satisfaction of a job well done.
What do you do for fun?
I love to have a girl’s night once in a while. It could be a card game night or a night out for a few drinks and a lot of talking as we need to catch up due to my long working hours.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about El Maiz?
We at El Maiz always do our best to have fresh ingredients. We try to offer the most authentic Venezuelan experience as possible. This sometimes includes going from market to market finding the “secret ingredients” that make our food so unique.
What’s your favourite food and wine pairing?
A barbeque made by my husband with a good red Chilean wine, that’s all I need to enjoy a well-cooked tenderloin.