As a young teenager, Mexican-born Tamara Chavez Lopez’s familiarity with the adrenaline in the kitchen stemmed from two generation’s worth of family members who are veterans in the food and beverage industry. Her study in tourism further exposed her to the world of gastronomy – it was unsurprising that she eventually earned herself a degree in Gastronomy at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Turismo in Mexico City.
Being a chef in Mexico was tough – labour was intensive and the payout was undesirable – but that did not stop Chavez from plunging into the culinary world as a head chef at Convi – T (Restaurant & Catering Co.) in 2010, creating daily menus for service as well as banquet functions.
Chavez first learned about Singapore through an uncle who was working as a chef in the cosmopolitan city. She was presented with an opportunity at El Mero Mero as a Chef de Partie, by Executive Chef Remy Lefebvre, preparing contemporary Mexican cuisine using French techniques. Her initial excitement was immediately doused by the change in scene and culture of the bustling city; and her experience made tougher with her limited mastery of the English language – Chavez began to miss the Latin American culture.
Chavez continued as a chef consultant to Piedra Negra and Le Frenchie Singapore in the development of their new menu before leaving to work with Colombian owner of the now defunct Latin Quarter, Patricia Rlammers, as an Executive Chef. It was here that she met Daniel Chavez, chef-owner of OLA Cocina del Mar, who spoke about opening a cevicheria. With the delay in the opening of TONO Cevicheria, Singapore and Asia’s first-ever authentic Peruvian Cevicheria, Chavez took the opportunity to visit Peru where she fell in love, twice over, with the big greetings, salsa and support from Latin American family and friends.
Daniel Chavez became her next mentor showing her the ropes of running a business and managing people. Now helming TONO Cevicheria with Chilean chef Jorge Valderrama, Chavez feels blessed to be sharing the culture of Latin American with the team and guests alike. She believes as a chef, if one enjoys what one is doing, the flavour of the dishes changes; and learning in the culinary world never stops.