Shifting from doctor to chef and from patients to guests was an easy transition for Luiz Ricardo de Andrade, MD, who graduated from NC’s Culinary Management program on June 21.
“Working as a doctor and a chef are pretty similar,” said Andrade. “A doctor must work in a clean and organized environment, read and keep informed of new breakthroughs, and always aim for the best patient service because you want your patients to be happy and healthy.” Andrade, who was a practicing medical doctor in three hospitals in his hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil, made the decision to move to Canada and study at Niagara College.
“Since my earliest childhood memories, I always wanted to be a doctor; to understand how the body works and how amazing it would be to use this knowledge to help others,” said Andrade. “After getting my medical degree and working for two years as a doctor without a break, I started to question if my life would resume to my previous routine. At this moment I decided, with my wife Cintia Mayumi, that we should have an experience abroad.”
Describing his passion for learning and developing a wide-range of skills, Andrade attributes his interest in food and wine to his grandfather. “He was a simple man, but full of passion and that energy deeply impressed me. I grew up cooking and started to wonder about a professional culinary education and how challenging but, at the same time, how rewarding such enterprise could be.”
He realized his old dream could become a reality after learning that Niagara College, in Andrade’s own opinion, one of the best colleges in Canada, was in the centre of a thriving wine region. Since making the move from Sao Paulo, Andrade feels that NC has his second home. “I felt welcomed and that’s very important when you are thousands of kilometers away from your comfort zone. The College embraced me; it opened countless learning opportunities and always had my back in any situation. The International Division is always there for you. Being a South American student, NC’s international regional manager for the Americas and Caribbean, Fernando Gama de Oliveira, was regularly reaching out and asking how I was doing, becoming a great friend.”
New to Canada, Andrade related the experience similar to starting life over again as everything is different and unknown. “It made me humble as it put a lot of my old values and beliefs into perspective. If you keep your head straight and your heart open, you emerge as a better person because of the experience.”
He believes having strong role models was crucial to his experience at NC as it helped him to define targets, set standards and push him professionally. “Niagara College possesses a remarkable team of teachers and every single one of them is committed to student success,” he said. An inspirational figure during his NC journey, Andrade noted how associate dean of NC’s School of Food and Wine Sciences, Gary Torraville, always had his office door open to him and offered invaluable guidance. Andrade referred to Torraville as the beating heart of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI).
“But I must acknowledge an individual who deeply inspired, challenged and pushed me to the boundaries of perfection to do better every day not only as a student, but as a human being: CFWI chef professor Mark Picone,” said the Culinary Management student.
Reflecting on the Dr. Seuss quote, “you have brains in your head; you have feet in your shoes; you can steer yourself any direction you choose,” Picone said, “Luiz was able to discover his culinary voice by working alongside fellow students and because of his discipline, he was allowed a level of creative freedom and was able to solve challenges. He approached his work with a level of ambition where he trusted his sense of creativity because he loved what he did. As a culinary management student, this experience has awakened his senses.”
Each day, NC professors have the ability to inspire lessons that extend beyond the classroom and have the power to influence a student for a lifetime. “The opportunity to teach kitchen lessons that bridge life lessons – teaching is passing on these lessons through my experiences and because life can teach you if you choose to let it – accountability, structure and organization that builds on cleanliness, humility and efficiency – enduring qualities that Luiz has carved out and built his craft,” said Picone.
Another notable influence in Andrade’s cooking is his Brazilian heritage, which he commented also eases his homesickness. “Spending my entire life eating Brazilian food, I have this incredible and unique background and I’m using this everyday,” he commented. “I can cook French, Italian, Japanese and Indian food, but it won’t be as good as my Brazilian dishes because I know how it should taste, and believe me, it is the best!
After graduation, Andrade and his wife have plans to spend more time in Canada. “I want to keep working and learning new skills and don’t discard the possibility to return to NC as student, possibly in one of the viticulture programs,” he shared.” But again, dreams. I always carry them, and they brought me here. Who knows what more is to come?”
For those also considering taking the leap in pursing their passions, Andrade imparted some advice. “Don’t be afraid, go ahead,” he said. “Don’t create regrets for lack of action. Plan your work and work your plan.”