Nadsa de Monteiro is passionate about creating good food then inspiring Americans to expand their palates. She wants them to try the unexpected flavors she has known since childhood.
Born in Cambodia, but raised in Yugoslavia, the Philippines, Taiwan and France, Nadsa 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, she 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 Nadsa went to work as a travel agent. The family's decision to open The Elephant Walk restaurant in Somerville changed her life.
Nadsa 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, 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.
After three years in that post Nadsa faced her biggest challenge, opening a third family restaurant, Carambola. Located in Waltham, Carambola opened its doors in December of 1997 and offers an entirely Cambodian menu. Nadsa developed a menu that reflects the five principal
groups of dishes enjoyed by traditional Cambodian families. The cuisine, often compared to Thai food, is actually lighter than Thai, less sweet, more complex and refined. 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 ? a performance art, exciting but demanding.
Like her mother Nyep, Nadsa 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."