Samantha Sanz is having a moment. A culinary moment, that is. After all, it’s not every day you chat with a top chef who is at the top of her game and still in her 20s. But Samantha Sanz, the executive chef at Talavera at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is just that.
The young, vivacious chef is brimming with talent and energy. And, her passion for cooking started at quite the young age. Having grown up in her family’s restaurant in Nogales, Sanz has always been surrounded by food.
“It’s my grandmother’s restaurant, and all of her daughters and sons worked there for a while, so it was natural for me to experience food all the time,” Sanz explains.
Trocadero has had its doors open for 60 years, and Sanz learned recipes just by watching her mother cook. One day, when she was just six years old, she decided to make an omelet while her mother was chatting on the phone—it wound up being perfect. “After that she hired me and gave me my first job,” she says.
Sanz started cooking nutritious meals for her dad who had high cholesterol and was eating out regularly. She was responsible for making complete meals and recalls calling her mother to ask for instructions on how to make certain things. “I was, like, 10 years old, and the whole summer I cooked for my dad. Sometimes things would be a little under-done, but he was always really nice about it and supported the whole thing.”
Although the family business was centered around cooking, Sanz’s mother hoped she would go to law school upon graduation. But Sanz always had cooking on her mind and in her heart.
Upon graduation, Sanz went on to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and worked at the nationally-renowned restaurants Elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain under Chef Beau MacMillan and Virtú Honest Craft under Chef Gio Osso. The former, she handled full-time while also studying full-time, an experience she says was both challenging and pivotal to her career.
“I had the best teachers. They were rough, they were tough, but they were really helpful and they really made me understand how kitchens work and how to be a badass all around.”
“I was really raw, with no professional experience whatsoever… I said to myself ‘you need to make sure you master your station because you need to advance, you need to be hungry about it.’”
And advance she did. Within just three months she was promoted to the hot line.
“I saw the guys on the hot line, and I thought they were amazing, I thought they were, like, these cooking gods,” she says. “I was blown away; I felt like I wanted to be like that or better. So I worked really hard.”
She admits that, at first, she was terrified, but stepped right into the role—hungry to learn more and do her best.
“The guys were kind of mean but nice at the same time; they were like big brothers that were building me up to have tough skin but that care about you at the same time. When they saw I was good, they were like, okay, we need to train her and make sure that she knows what she’s doing when she leaves this place. I had the best teachers. They were rough, they were tough, but they were really helpful and they really made me understand how kitchens work and how to be a badass all around.”
Now, Sanz is at the helm of Talavera at The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. At just 28 years old, she is one of the youngest chefs in the Four Seasons portfolio. And she recently re-invented the Spanish steakhouse concept, which features Latin and Mediterranean flavors.
“It was pretty crazy, to be quite honest with you,” she says. “We opened pretty much overnight. We closed for a Sunday and Monday and then we opened on Tuesday with a brand new concept.”
Some of the dishes that are part of the new concept include tapas, Spanish paella and charcuterie plates. Sanz says at least 50 new dishes were introduced, a process which took several weeks of creative brainstorming and inspiration. And since the debut, the accolades have been pouring in.
As far as what’s next for the young chef, she’s currently savoring the success of the present moment and plans to study wines.
“I love providing hospitality and making people happy. If you can create a really great experience, that’s what makes me happy… and I get paid to play with food all day long!”
LAST BOOK YOU READ?
Mezcal: The History, Craft & Cocktails of the World’s Ultimate Artisinal Spirit
Vanilla bean ice cream
FAVORITE BRUNCH SPOT?
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE?
MORNING OR NIGHT PERSON?
WHAT ANNOYS YOU MOST?
People who have no manners
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
Creative, sarcastic, and stubborn
WHAT FOOD TREND ARE YOU SICK OF?
Things that are really sugary, those crazy desserts
COFFEE OR TEA?
SUNSET OR SUNRISE?
BEER OR WINE?
WHAT OR WHO DO YOU CONSIDER ICONIC?