The Elephant Walk's kitchens are supervised by the mother-daughter team of founding chef Longteine de Monteiro and her daughter Executive Chef, Nadsa de Monteiro, Gerard Lopez, Longteine's French son-in-law, is Executive Chef at The Elephant Walk in Cambridge. This family team closely coordinates the culinary operations at the Elephant Walk restaurants
Biography - Longteine de Monteiro
Longteine has known a life of both privilege and hardship. Born to an accomplished Cambodian family, she married Kenthao de Monteiro after he returned from earning political science degrees in France. The early years of her marriage were devoted to raising two young daughters and supporting her husband's career. Kenthao worked as a journalist, law professor, Judge, Minister of Education, Congressman, and Vice President of the Cambodian National Assembly. He then became a respected Cambodian dipolomat in Egypt, Yugoslavia and the Philippines, before being named Cambodia's Ambassador to Taiwan in 1971.
In 1975 the family's world changed forever when the Khmer Rouge took over the Cambodian government. Longteine and Kenthao assisted many in their family to escape, but Longteine's mother and brother were among the approximately 1.7 million Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouges. At that time, Kenthao became a diplomat without a government and the family became political refugees. After years in limbo, they all settled in southern France in 1979.
The move to France brought safety, but not prosperity. There was no work in France for a diplomat representing a fallen government. So, at age 42,Longteine became the family breadwinner when she opened Amrita, the first Cambodian restaurant in France. Kenthao assisted her at the restaurant, working as the host.
Longteine had little formal training as a chef, but she was born to cook. Her mother had taught her the fundamentals of Cambodian cuisine, and Longteine had taught herself French cooking when she was a teenager. As a diplomat's wife, she relied on her culinary instinct to oversee the embassy's kitchen and often cooked Cambodian dishes herself while entertaining friends. Running the family's first restaurant in France taught her the business side of good cuisine. For ten years Longteine cooked alone, struggling to keep her family financially solvent.
In 1991 Longteine and Kenthao sold Amrita and moved to the United States to join their daughter Nadsa who had married Bob Perry. Once here,Longteine partnered with Bob to open The Elephant Walk in Somerville. Her talent quickly emerged. Esquire Magazine named The Elephant Walk one of America's best new restaurants in 1992, heralding Longteine's food as "absolutely delicious and enlightening." Other reviewers have described the cuisine as "a rare treat" and “exquisite."
Committed to preserving Cambodian culture, Longteine decided to undertake yet another project: writing a cookbook. The Elephant Walk Cookbook, co-authored with Katherine Neustadt, is much more than a compilation of recipes. The book also details the history of Cambodian cuisine and culture. Published in the fall of 1998, it has become a classic reference for anyone interested in the Cambodian experience.
Longteine excels in creating both classic French food, which is familiar to Americans, and the more adventurous, spicy Cambodian cuisine. Her success is a tribute to the human spirit; it is, the story of a woman who refused to give up and instead found within herself the talent and courage to help her family flourish.
Biography - Nadsa de Monteiro
Born in Cambodia and raised in Yugoslavia, the Philippines, Taiwan and France, Nadsa de Monteiro draws on her international background for inspiration in the kitchen. She is passionate about creating good food and inspiring Americans to expand their palates. She wants them to try the unexpected flavors she has known since childhood. As a young girl she learned to appreciate her mother’s expert cuisine, but had little interest in cooking. That changed when she began living on her own and discovered how much she enjoyed sophisticated food. Working with her mother, garnering her advice during many long phone calls, she learned to cook out of necessity.
The family's decision to open The Elephant Walk restaurant in Somerville changed Nadsa’s life and altered her career path. She began to cook at The Elephant Walk in 1992 and, as her talent emerged, she became less interested in her work as a travel agent. Under the watchful eye of her mother, Nadsa trained as Sous Chef. Soon she and her mother began to experiment, moving their cuisine well beyond traditional Cambodian fare. When the family opened its second Elephant Walk in Boston, Nadsa was ready to take over as Executive Chef.
Nadsa takes particular delight in combining unexpected flavors to create new dishes. She compares running the restaurant to putting on a new Broadway show every night; it is performance art that is exciting, but demanding. Like her mother Longteine, Nadsa is largely self-taught. She has also studied with Michelin Chef Yves Thuries in Cordes, France, and at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But clearly the most important influence in her kitchen is Longteine, a chef she describes as "still the best."
Biography - Gérard Lopez
Gérard was born in Capestang, a small town in the south of France. In his words, he grew up "hanging around" the kitchen, learning Spanish dishes from his father, a native of Madrid, and Algerian food from his mother, a French woman raised in North Africa. Cooking and soccer were the family's passion. While cooking was central to Gérard's life, he didn't initially view it as a career. He was, however, never far from a kitchen.
After graduating from Le Collége Lagrange in 1982 he spent the summer running a small pizzeria on a Mediterranean beach. It was a project that taught him many things. Opening a pizzeria also gave him a taste of the restaurant business that he would not forget. When the summer ended, he went to work helping commercial builders finance their operations. He continued in that field, living in Beziers, marrying Launa de Monteiro. His marriage paved the way for his permanent entry into the restaurant business.
Gérard began helping the family out on the weekends, waiting tables and occasionally cooking. Little did he realize that casually assisting his in-laws would one day lead to a profound life change. He decided to follow his passion and quit his job to enroll in pastry school. He also apprenticed at the best patisserie in Bezièrs for experience. The Somerville Elephant Walk restaurant had quickly became a huge success; the family wanted to expand, but needed help. After much thought, Gérard and Launa, agreed to leave France to again participate in the family business.
Gérard first began work in Somerville as the restaurant's pastry chef. Gerard’s culinary skills were instrumental to the design and successful openings of the Boston Elephant Walk in 1994 and the Cambridge Elephant Walk in 1998. He has worked as the chef of both restaurants and is currently the Executive Chef of the Cambridge Elephant Walk. Gerard is an instructor at the Cambridge Culinary School and teaches private classes, as well as leads culinary travel trips to Europe.
To cook, Gérard believes, is to experience life at its fullest. He brings to his kitchen the passion of a Spaniard, the sensibilities of a Frenchman and an international palate.
Click here for more information on all three chef/owners of The Elephant Walk also teach cooking classes, with new class schedules announced four times a year. LINK to cooking class