Style Name Eduardo Santamarina
Style Birth; July 09th, 1968
Style From; Veracruz, Mexico
Style Occupations; Actor
Style Relationship; Married to Mayrín Villanueva since 2009
Sophie, 34, is executive chef at the Pont St restaurant at Belgraves Hotel, and part of the all-female team behind The Gorgeous Kitchen
Mum was a musician, so growing up we travelled a lot and tried lots of different food. At 14 I started suffering from ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), which made me feel exhausted. While off school recovering, I did a lot of cooking, and quit school at 15 to become a chef. My parents weren’t thrilled, but I trusted my instincts.
spent a year in Dublin working in various restaurants, but came back to get properly trained. A government bursary helped with the fees to study at the prestigious Butlers v Wharf. I learnt the art of fine dining, made industry contacts and scooped various awards, as well as doing placements at Le Gavroche and Le Caprice.
Disillusioned with the 80-120-hour weeks, I took a break from restaurants.
Through an introduction by a mutual acquaintance,
I became Claudia Schiffer’s chef. It was a different way of cooking, as you’re led by what the client wants.
Feeling the TV work was drying up, I took a role as a restaurant consultant. It was way out of my comfort zone, but I learnt about the operational side of the industry: working with architects and kitchen designers, and understanding menu costing.
At an event at Belgraves, I overheard that they needed a chef to manage the kitchen; within weeks I’d met with the owner. I run the restaurant, room service, bar menu, . events, and manage 150 staff. The challenge is keeping the restaurant interesting, so people want to come back.
Executive chef, Pont St, Belgraves Hotel, London
Keen to get some kitchen experience, I started working full time in a local gastropub. I was only 15, so lied about my age so they’d take me on. Even though it was hard work, I loved it and knew I’d made the right choice about leaving school
My tutor knew the head chef at the Michelin-starred Greenhouse and put me forward for a role. Fresh out of college, working in a predominantly male kitchen was tough – as a female chef, you face sexism every day – but I learnt the best way to deal with it is to work hard and prove yourself.
Having developed a passion for healthy cooking, I was approached by Channel 4 to present The Fit Farm, then Cook Yourself Thin, and spent the next few years working on the shows while writing my first cookbooks. I love television: it’s a great way to reach people.
I returned to London to do private catering and write two more cookbooks. Then I was approached to oversee The Gorgeous Kitchen.
I relished the challenge of improving typically bad airport food, and working with three other female chefs is amazing. In 2015, we were voted the best airport restaurant in the world.
Make yourself nervous – putting
yourself in situations where you don’t feel confident will stretch your abilities and push you to the next level.