There’s nothing better than having a talented and well-respected chef create a delicious Easter dinner in your own home. As residents of The Waterford dine on lobster ravioli with leek and tomato gratin they are thoroughly enjoying the workmanship of their new chef, Rodrigo Prado and his team. Chef Rodrigo comes to Bria Communities with an impressive career of culinary adventures and accolades that has crisscrossed North and South America, but this chef almost missed his calling.
Growing up in Brazil in a family of lawyers meant that Rodrigo’s career path was virtually pre-arranged. He went to law school and began practicing with his mother’s firm, but his heart was beckoning him to a different line of work.
“My uncle had a huge German restaurant,” Rodrigo recalls. “I went to him, and I said, ‘I need your help. I really love hospitality. I love to cook.’” His uncle intervened for him on the condition that he would not just cook or work in a hotel, but that he would get an education and become a professional. Rodrigo enrolled in the hospitality management program at the University of Central Florida, and shortly after that found himself serving the king of Florida himself — Mickey Mouse.
“I started at Walt Disney World working at a Mediterranean buffet in the Magic Kingdom. We had 600 seats and 85 chefs cooking. You could only get in if you made a reservation six months in advance.” Chef Rodrigo loved working creating meals that were an exciting dining experience for guests. His time there left an impression and opened new doors.
After leaving Walt Disney World, he bounced back and forth between the USA and Brazil, cherry-picking opportunities in high-end hotels and restaurants. But the chance to work for one of Brazil’s culinary moguls brought him back to his hometown of Curitiba, and at the same time sent his career sky-rocketing. “No one knew me yet,” he says with a grin, “and I won best chef in the city that first year. It was awesome.”
Chef Rodrigo expanded his experience by training with the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America (CIA). His reputation spread, and before long he was a partner in a local restaurant, had created a unique program for Brazilian students in the CIA, was wielding a sommelier degree and was consulting for restaurants. He won awards and accolades, becoming well known in Curitiba and throughout Brazil. But something was wrong.
“I was very tired,” admits Rodrigo. “I had a nice career, but I was working 14 hour days. I was making good money, but my blood pressure was super high, and I was miserable.”
A friend invited Rodrigo to consider Vancouver as a new home, and before long he and his wife relocated to the Great White North. The move came with some sacrifices. A lawyer advised that the best way to work in Canada was to get an education in Canada. So Rodrigo went back to school. While he was there an internship opportunity gave him a first taste of working in a senior’s independent living community. And it tasted good!
“Purpose is what I am always looking for,” he says as he reflects on his new niche creating delicious meals for seniors. “I want to touch people with food. In Brazil [my work] was glamorous, but it was all about the money and the food critics. I was losing purpose.’
Purpose is what he found in his new role as Chef at The Waterford. “I come to work happy because my work is important to the people. It’s the highlight of their day when they come for lunch or dinner — they are expecting something special.”
Rodrigo’s wife was also expecting something special, and just weeks before he started his new job with Bria Communities, their family grew by one bouncing baby boy. With a broad smile he proclaims these are the happiest days of his life, “it’s the whole package,” he says, “Career, family, house, everything! Bria Communities is a big part of that.”
He thinks back to those days working at Walt Disney World and sees the connection between what he did there and what he does at The Waterford. “It’s totally different, and yet it’s the same. It’s about touching people’s lives and making them happy. It’s about creating great experiences.”