A Conversation with Thermëa Chef Maximus Navarro
Chef Maximus Navarro, better known around Thermëa as Chicco, answered some of our questions so that we may get to know him—and his food—a little better.
How did you become a chef here at Thermëa?
In 2015, I migrated from the Philippines—Thermëa was my first job in Canada. Since then, Chef Thomas—who is now the Director of Food & Beverage—and I built an amazing relationship and an even greater kitchen team to go along with it.
I first started as a line cook here at Thermëa. I was happy and content with what I was doing. One day, Chef Thomas and I were prepping and he asked me: “What would make you happy working here? Not that I’m saying you’re unhappy, but what would make you happier?” I replied, funnily enough: “Not a promotion!”
Next thing you know, he promoted me to Sous-Chef a few months later. A bit over five years and dozens of menu changes later, Chef Thomas moved up and chose me to fill in the Chef position—and here I am.
Do you recall the first dish you ever cooked?
I remember it very well. I helped my mom prepare a lasagna when I was just 7 years old. It had all the works: bechamel, three cheeses, Bolognese and lots and lots of love!
What cuisines influence your dishes the most?
I was trained in a classic French style, but my influence is mostly Asian. I love bold flavours. I like to marry my Asian influence with classic French techniques. With regard to the food we prepare here at Thermëa, I use my Asian flair and turn it into something more Nordic or Scandinavian-inspired. It makes for food that is elevated, homey and comforting—all in one bite.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I’d say simple and adventurous. I like to push my skills and people’s palates limits.
What is your favourite weekday meal to put together?
Oh, that one’s easy! Fried rice, fried eggs and Longganisa—a Filipino-style sweet sausage—with a tasty vinegar dipping sauce.
What would you say is your favourite Thermëa dish?
My favourite is definitely our Braised Short Ribs. They come with garlic mashed potato and sauteed vegetables. It is very comforting, filling, simple and tasty!
What is the one thing you always keep in the fridge or pantry at home?
Gochujang. It’s a spicy Korean roasted chili paste, yum!
If you were to go on a foodie holiday (someday), where would you go?
I’d love to experience the Northern region of Japan.
How do you see Winnipeg’s food scene evolving?
The Winnipeg food scene is evolving to match a more exotic and adventurous palate. People are trying new things and they’re more interested in a diversity in food—which I am loving! I like to see regional cuisine, in all its forms.
Any parting words?
Always cook with love! Even if you don’t know who you’re cooking for, or you aren’t feeling your best that day—people can definitely feel the love when they eat your food. Food shouldn’t only nourish your body, it’s also for the soul.
We could all use a little more love in the world these days.
To try Chef Chicco’s favourite—braised short ribs—and other delicious spa food, call 204-894-8610 for pickup or click below to order delivery.