Helping his mom cook and enjoying the delicious results was the first step down the culinary road for Chef Milton Rebello. He says, “I love food and I love eating. I was my Mom’s handy man. I used to peel the onions and do all of the little jobs. I got to taste everything that came out first. It was one of the perks of doing those jobs!”
Canadian Chefs: Milton Rebello, Wascana Golf and Country Club, Regina SK
Chef Milton Rebello mixes his international culinary influences with locally grown and raised ingredients to create unique cuisine at the Wascana Golf and Country Club.
Chef Milton Rebello
Rebello was raised largely in Mumbai. Growing up in an apartment building, he was surrounded by neighbours from all over India, so he was exposed to the diversity of Indian cuisine as he ate at all of their tables.
Intially, Rebello wanted to be a soccer star, but his father brought him down to earth. He listed three careers from which Rebello could choose. One of the options was cooking and that was the path that he decided to take.
After going to the Institute of Hotel Management in Mumbai, Rebello followed his passion for travel and cooked in and around the Persian Gulf for seven years. He says, “It was a good eye opener and brought my skills up to date. I worked with some good chefs along the way. I also worked the front of house which helped me to understand that part of the business.”
There was a stint with Carnival Cruise Lines that allowed Rebello the chance to indulge his wanderlust while working with some excellent chefs. Those chefs pushed him hard and recognized his potential, so Carnival sent him to Johnson and Wales University. This experience opened doors for him led to him working in a wide variety of kitchens on the Eastern Seaboard.
Eventually, Rebello was able to move to Canada. He worked in several hotel chains before he ended up at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise under Chef Dominique Guyot. Guyot saw his potential and gave Rebello a broad range of experiences which he eagerly soaked up. After these experiences, he moved to Regina and worked at the Hotel Saskatchewan where he was able to cook for VIP guests ranging from Prince Charles to the Rolling Stones.
Culinary competitions have been a big part of Rebello’s career. He won two gold medals at the Gold Medal Plates competition in 2012 and 2014 and a bronze at the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna in 2013.
Sesame-crusted seared ahi tuna, wasabi mayo, pickled ginger, seaweed, ginger soy vinaigrette, lentil cracker.
Rebello is currently pursuing a very locally driven, hands on approach to his food right down to making his own tableware. He says, “We have a pottery studio at home, we have a kiln and we have a wheel. We went to pottery school and we’re making our own cups, bowls and plates.”
At the Wascana Country Club, he has access to an 80 foot by 20 foot greenhouse so he grows sprouts and tomatoes there. He also has access to a plot of land on a farm where he grows a wide assortment of vegetables. This has also allowed him to connect with local farmers and learn from them.
Rebello is trying to keep his food approachable. He points out, “I like to keep things simple, I don’t want to overload the plate and I want to let the ingredients speak for themselves, but I use quality ingredients. I’m brave with my flavour profiles. I’m not afraid to use more spice than people tend to use.“
At first, Rebello was concerned that people would be overwhelmed by his bold approach to flavours, but he’s been welcomed with open arms by his guests who have more widely traveled palates than he’d expected.
Elevating his food is crucial for Rebello as a chef. He’s always seeking new opportunities to expand his food. He adds, “I do check to see what chefs in the city are doing but I try my best not to do what they’re doing.”
Bison cutlet with spiced root vegetable nest and beet ketchup
The team is central to Rebello’s approach to everything in the kitchen. He might have the initial culinary vision, but when it comes to menu development, he says, “We sit down as a team and throw ideas at each other. Collectively we come up with a fantastic menu. We change it more often and that gets me buy in from my team. They’re happy so I’m happy and I can see it on the plates because they’re beautiful.”
This team approach extends to the way in which Rebello thinks about his staff. He hires a smaller number of people and pays them more. None of his current staff have names or positions on their jackets in order to help them become a team and stand on equal footing.
Hiring new cooks happens on the basis of their drive and passion for Rebello. Rebello is focused on people who want to learn and grow as cooks. He often asks cooks about their future plans. He says, “If they tell me their one year goal is to become an executive chef, I stay the hell away from them. If somebody tells me that their three to five year goal is to become a chef, I’ll give them a chance.”
The initial relationships Rebello has with his suppliers were established when he was working at the Hotel Saskatchewan. He would go to the farmer’s markets and buy whatever looked the best for his farmer’s market dinners. Once he set down roots, he’s been able to reap the benefits of those connections that he built.
Inspiration can come in many guises for Rebello. He’s inspired by the idea of owning his own restaurant. He also finds inspiration from his wife. The chef explains, “My wife is a pastry chef and I take great inspiration from her. When the babies are sleeping, she’s practicing her baking.”
Ultimately Rebello is keeping things simple and working towards his goals. He concludes, “If it happens sooner, it’s a blessing. If it takes a little longer, I’ll keep on pushing until it happens.”
Watermelon and feta salad with aged balsamic vinegar
Coconut and chocolate mousse
This profile is based on an interview with Milton Rebello conducted and recorded on Nov. 25, 2015.