Nadsa de Monteiro is passionate about creating good food and inspiring Americans to expand their palates. She wants everyone to try the unexpected flavors that to her have been familiar since childhood. Born in Cambodia, but raised in Yugoslavia, the Philippines, Taiwan and France, de Monteiro draws on her international background for inspiration in the kitchen. As a child she learned to appreciate good food but had little interest in cooking. When she began living on her own and discovered her palate demanded a sophisticated cuisine, that changed. Working with her mother, garnering her advice during many long phone calls, de Monteiro learned to cook out of necessity.
Her path to the United States was a complicated one. As a teenager studying at the Taipei American School, she met and fell in love with American Bob Perry. He returned home, and they didn't meet again for seven years. They rediscovered each other in Paris and married in December of 1986. Two weeks later, they moved to Boston where de Monteiro went to work as a travel agent. The family's decision to open The Elephant Walk restaurant in Somerville changed her life.
De Monteiro began to cook at The Elephant Walk in mid-1992 and, as her talent emerged, she became less interested in her work as a travel agent. Under the watchful eye of her mother, Longteine de Monteiro (known as Nyep), The Elephant Walk's chef, de Monteiro 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 , de Monteiro was ready to take over as executive chef.
After three years in that post de Monteiro faced her biggest challenge, opening a third branch of The Elephant Walk in Waltham, Massachussetts. In her three restaurants, de Monteiro has developed a menu that reflects the five principal groups of dishes enjoyed by traditional Cambodian families. de Monteiro 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, as performance art goes, it is demanding, but exciting.
Beginning on September 1, 2009, the Elephant Walk Restaurant Group committed The Elephant Walk in Waltham to the Benefit Restaurant Project. The restaurant group also offers cooking classes, maintains a blog, and has published a cookbook, The Elephant Walk Cookbook.
Like her mother Nyep, de Monteiro is largely self-taught. She has also studied with Michelin Chef Yves Thuriés in Cordes, France, and at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge. Clearly the most important influence in her kitchen is Nyep, a chef she describes as "still the best."