An international culinary tour #HereAtSAIT

Portraits of chefs who are involved with the Cultural Chef Exchange Series
Without ever stepping foot on an airplane, SAIT students get the chance to meet, and learn from, some of the best chefs in the world

Cuisine has a long history of discovery. With a constant movement of people around the globe, traditions evolved as new and previously unheard-of ingredients became available. Local cuisines borrowed and built on that of their neighbours — honouring existing knowledge while embracing creativity.

In that spirit of shared learning, SAIT welcomes decorated international chefs and sommeliers to our Cultural Chef Exchange Series — where they share the knowledge of their experience with the next generation of Culinary leaders.

The best welcomes the best

SAIT’s culinary programs are the best in Canada, according to CEOWORLD Magazine, so it’s only fitting to welcome some of the top culinary talent from around the globe. The speaker series was created in collaboration with Calgary chef Darren Maclean, who acts as Canadian host to our international guests. True to the concept of an “exchange,” guest speakers are invited to take home new discoveries with them, foraging for Canadian-grown plants around Calgary with Chef Maclean before speaking at SAIT. 

Over the summer, SAIT hosted Mexican chef Colibri Jimenez, who introduced us the many varieties of corn native to her land and their significance in Mexican cuisine. Brazilian native Alberto Landgraf explained why Cassava is so important to Brazilian cuisine. And Japanese sommelier Yoshinobu Kimura outlined how he pairs sake to a dish at his restaurant in Tokyo.

All of our guest speakers explored the “why” behind what they do — and what success means to them.

Here, you can get a sampling plate of what success means to them. Come out to the next dialogue if you’re hungry for more.

Colibri Jimenez — Maria Raiz Y TiERRA

Mexican chef Jimenez competed alongside Chef Maclean on the cooking competition, The Final Table, when she was only 26. Jimenez went to school for the academic education that would please her parents, but she never saw herself working a nine-to-five.

She dove into Mexican cuisine by travelling around her home country in a pickup truck — she wanted to discover its history and research its ingredients.

“I always pictured myself as a chef because I think gastronomy is related to so many other areas. It’s not just about cooking,” she says.

“It’s our responsibility not only to serve food that tastes good, but that is good for people and the environment, and food that tells a story.”

What does success mean for Jimenez?

  • a sustainable and ethical kitchen. She understands the animals she’s using — from how they are farmed to slaughtered — to ensure she is sourcing her meat from ethical farms.She researches how foods are connected to each other and how living organisms are connected in an ecosystem to inform the choices for her kitchen.
  • involving the local community near her restaurant — hiring and learning from home cooks, and supporting them financially. She makes sure those involved in agriculture are getting a fair wage and her methods are sustainable for the environment.
  • reflecting the biodiversity of her native country and focusing on the traditional (heirloom) ingredients found in her local cuisine.

“Success is a consequence of being happy, caring about other people; getting the community involved,” says Jimenez.

Alberto Landgraf — Oteque

Brazilian chef Alberto Landgraf’s restaurant, Oteque, is a seafood spot located in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The restaurant plays on the chef’s Japanese lineage and keeps the eight-course menu aligned with what’s in season.

The 42-year-old chef has a Michelin star and his restaurant is one of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants — an annual rating produced by UK media company William Reed and decided by a panel of 1,080 culinary experts focused on providing the best destinations for special culinary experience.

Those awards may give his restaurant a reputation for excellence, but Landgraf’s personal focus is on training the next generation of young chefs. 

What has he learned over the years?

  • to manage his ego and take everything with a pinch of salt, which he considers especially important when someone tells him he’s the best chef in the world
  • the importance of buying good salt. He says it doesn’t make sense to purchase an expensive cut of meat and not treat it with quality seasoning.
  • abuse should have no place in the food industry. A kitchen should be a healthy place for people to grow, learn and thrive. Diversity is a strength in the kitchen, and how you treat humans in the kitchen is a priority.

“We’re here to be happy because we love cooking, we love people, we love interacting with people — we love travelling and getting to know ingredients. Eventually, we might make some money,” says Landgraf. 

Yoshinobu Kimura — Sushi M

Yoshinobu Kimura has a decade of experience as a sommelier. Sushi M, his restaurant in Tokyo, is focused on the pairing between drink and plate. From luxurious French wines to 30-year-old sakes aged in whisky barrels, Kimura chooses the pairing minutes before the guests take their first sip.

What does success mean to Kimura?

  • it’s creating a journey for the guest, from beginning to end, by creating rhythm with pairings not about just how the drink fits the dish, but how each glass follows each other

What are qualities of a great sommelier?

  • balancing feeling and science, like acidity levels, to determine the right glass to the plate
  • tasting what’s left in the pan to taste to determine the choice of wine or sake
  • experience and a developed palette come with time, so patience is a must

“Eating every day is the most important for human beings. Cooking for someone else — family, friends —is an honour,” says Kimura.

What top chefs can you see next?

The next exchange is on Wednesday, Sept. 14, when American chef Aaron Bludorn drops by.

If a future in the culinary world is calling you, find out how SAIT’s Food and Hospitality programs can shape you into the world’s next leading chef, mixologist, restauranteur or baker. Discover what success means to you, so you share it with others, too.

Stay on the lookout for these upcoming guests, coming later in the fall.  


Chef Sam Tran – GIA (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Chef Nathan Gould – SHELTER (Martha’s Vineyard, USA)


Chef Aishling Moore – GOLDIE (Cork, Ireland)  

Chef Shane Osborn – ARCANE (Hong Kong)

Chef Aminder Sandhu – ARTH (INDIA)

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