Chef Randy Siles is one of the best chefs in Costa Rica. He is Costa Rica’s Ambassador of National Gastronomy and the chef at the incredible Shambala Restaurant. He cooks with a really unique combination of flavors and techniques, resulting in some of the best tasting dishes you’ve never seen before.
On top of that, Chef Randy Siles runs a Foundation named Artesanos de la Gastronomia or Gastronomic Artisans, where he mentors young people in Santa Teresa and gives them the opportunity to develop high culinary skills.
“I use everything. There’s nothing in the sea, nothing on the Earth. All produce. It’s sustainable.” –Chef Randy Siles
Award-winning and gaining international celebrity status in his role as Costa Rica’s Ambassador of National Gastronomy, Randy Siles is loving life as a top chef in Costa Rica. He lives and works steps from one of the country’s prettiest beaches, sharing his passions of surfing with creating inventive sustainable cuisine at Hotel Tropico Latino in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.
Yet lately, Siles is spending almost as much time on an airplane as he is in the kitchen.
As Costa Rica’s Chef Ambassador for the National Plan of Sustainable and Healthy Gastronomy, Siles has been traversing the globe giving cooking lessons at international travel shows like the New York Times Travel Show in January. Food bloggers from around the world have been invited to “Cook Like a Tico” with Siles, who surprises them with innovative Costa Rican recipes using traditional and sustainable ingredients.
Specialty dishes he has created at the travel shows include fresh fish ceviche with mango, rice pudding (arroz con leche) in crème brulee style with pineapple, picadillo of chayote with indigenous purple corn and pork, and his squash and farro salad. Check out Siles’ very creative menu at Shambala Restaurant in Hotel Tropico Latino on the beach in Santa Teresa.
Why should tourists come to Costa Rica for the food? Siles says: “We have the freshest products here in Costa Rica – fish from two oceans and thousands of rivers, fresh vegetables and fruits, and fresh meats farmed locally. Our climate allows us to grow anything and everything. And we are a small country so we can easily move products from one place to another.”
International fame aside, who is the man underneath the chef hat and how did Siles get his start as a rising star in the kitchens of Costa Rica’s gastronomic scene?
Growing up in Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose, Siles said he first learned to cook from his mother, Elizabeth, who helped teach baking and pastry-making. Starting when he was about 8-years-old, Siles said he would climb up on a chair in their kitchen and help her make cakes.
“I was always was fascinated with cooking. When I was older and would travel around with friends, I would always cook for the group,” he remembered.
Chef Randy Siles received a diploma in gastronomy from the ARCAM Gourmet School in San Jose in 2007. Luck and talent led him to work for one year with two Michelin Star chef, Richard Neat, in Park Café in San Jose. “He helped me form my style and awakened my interest and talents in cooking,” said Siles of his mentor.
Then, Siles’ life changed forever when he accompanied friends to the remote beach paradise of Santa Teresa on Costa Rica’s southern Nicoya Peninsula. “I loved it. I vowed to return, and did, to work in a hotel,” he said. “I loved the lifestyle and the spectacular beauty of the place. Surfing was always a dream in my life and I moved to Santa Teresa for that.”
Now, at age 35, Siles has been the chef at Hotel Tropico Latino on the beach in Santa Teresa for six years. He focuses on using fresh, locally sourced, native products in his healthy menu that compliments Tropico Latino’s active Santa Teresa surf and yoga retreats, and natural spa.
When Siles is not cooking at Hotel Tropico Latino or traveling as Costa Rica’s Chef Ambassador, he loves to surf, run on the beach, and spend time with family. His daughter, Tamara, who turns 2-years-old in May, is “the light of my life,” he boasts.
He also likes taking “working vacations” where he offers to work for free as a chef in order to learn. So far, he has “vacationed” in Michelin star restaurants in Spain, France, Italy, and Japan. And just this month in Santa Teresa, Siles began inter-exchanges with cooking universities like the Montreal School of Catering and Tourism (École des métiers de la restauration et du tourisme de Montréal). Twelve students from Montreal are spending the month at Hotel Tropico Latino to learn about Costa Rican cooking and techniques.
Siles hopes to continue expanding his horizons and popularizing Costa Rica’s cuisine around the world, while at the same time keeping his paradise home in Santa Teresa close at heart.
He said, “I work hard and always focus on my dreams, remember where I’m from, and keep shooting for the stars.”
I love the world of food and beverage, everything about it, it’s soo damn sexy! Every time we eat and drink it ignites us sensually…the look, texture, taste, smell, sound all in a unique combination, encapsulating a moment in time. The act of sharing a meal with friends, chatting, eating, and drinking together is so forking perfect. It is a feeling that echoes a sense that All Is Good! Very, Very good!