In a career that has spanned the globe, SAIT alumni Vanessa Mendoza has cooked for royalty, dignitaries and eminent politicians, including Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — working in restaurants and at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade — before returning to the School of Hospitality and Tourism as a chef instructor.
Her work mentoring and inspiring future chefs has bookended a lengthy career that has taken Mendoza from SAIT’s kitchen as a student and then teaching assistant to Canada’s capital, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan. Along the way, she has done food design for major movies filmed around Calgary — including Brokeback Mountain and Shanghai Noon — worked as a consultant for a Japanese restaurant in Germany and spent 11 years in the kitchens at the Department of Foreign Affairs, which led her to meet Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
Looking to mentor and guide the next generation of chefs, she returned to SAIT as an instructor in 2014 — some 18 years after earning her professional cooking diploma. Today, along with teaching students the fundamentals of cooking, she coaches student culinary competitors — just as her instructors did when she competed in Singapore and Scotland as a student.
Awards and achievements: Has taken part in and won a number of international culinary competitions, including Food and Hotel Asia (Singapore and Hong Kong), IKA Culinary Olympics (Germany), Salon Culinaire D’Ecosse (Scotland) and the Hong Kong Culinary Classic.
If I wasn’t doing this: I’d be working for the United Nations Intangible Cultural Heritage, studying the food traditions and living expressions of countries around the world.