Each month we feature a Chef of Chef Works. If you’re a fan of Chef Works gear and are interested in being featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictured above is our December CoCW, Chef Thiago Silva, photographed by Chef Works in his Gramercy Chef Coat.
You might have noticed … Chef Thiago Silva is everywhere lately!
First, he was named one of People Magazine’s sexiest chefs. Shortly thereafter, he stumped Bobby Flay with his chocolate layer cake on “Beat Bobby Flay.” But before that, he was wowing the crowd at the sustainable food cooking competition WASTED, where he took home top honors by winning the “sweet” category.
The on-the-move chef is no stranger to Chef Works, having appeared as a model in our catalogs. He took a few minutes to catch up with the Chef Works blog and update us on everything that’s happening in his world.
Let’s start with WASTED. What was your winning dish and what was the inspiration behind it?
Thiago Silva: I think what people really loved was I made a liquid truffle using spent coffee grinds. It was a brown-butter coffee cake with a little mascarpone cream and a little chocolate and I added spent coffee to it. We have an amazing espresso machine at work for the staff. Every day there was coffee grinds being used and then thrown out. I was thinking of ways to re-use it because there had to be so much flavor going to waste. So for a long time I’ve been drying it out and repurposing it. It was perfect for an event like WASTED.
How do you make sustainable cooking and minimal food waste part of your daily routine?
TS: I think for me, the most important thing is trying not to be wasteful in general. We all love having a full refrigerator. And a lot of times people are shopping just to make sure they have a nice, full fridge. But actually, trying to have a full pantry is more important than having a full fridge. I actually like to shop for need and more frequently. Buy things that you can cook right away and just for what you need instead of filling up your fridge and then letting it sit and spoil because you don’t get to it.
What was your “a-ha” moment where you knew you wanted to be a chef?
TS: It happened kind of early for me. I remember the first time I went into a professional kitchen. I was about 8 years old. I remember seeing lots of flames and people screaming and I was really excited by that. It was so different. It was my step dad’s job at the time. That’s why I was there. I saw what was happening, but I didn’t realize at the time that would be it for me. But looking back, I definitely connect back to that moment.
Tell us about your current project.
TS: Right now I’m working in a research and development lab where the mission is to bring healthy, delicious, nutritious and sustainable food into the world. We do everything for the consumer packaged goods area to get better products out there that are lower in fat and lower in sugar.
As a pastry chef, is that counterintuitive to be working with less sugar?
TS: It’s definitely where society is trending. And that’s a good thing. Sugar has always been an issue and people want to reduce their intake. I think working in this lab and working with scientists to develop better food is only going to benefit my career – and hopefully benefit the consumer in the long run.
Speaking of your career, you’re everywhere right now. What’s been the reaction to People Magazine and the TV appearances?
TS: I never got into this business for all of that. I got in because I love cooking and I love food. But when you put in a lot of hard work, certain doors are going to open and you walk through them. I’ve been very fortunate to be exposed to a lot of great people, a lot of great opportunities and a lot of great companies, including Chef Works. I think people who know me and work with me know I’m the same guy. They know I put in the work. I wash dishes. I take out the trash. I haven’t changed anything about myself and I think people recognize that I’m always going to be the same person. Everyone has been really, really supportive and it’s been fun.