PARADISE VALLEY, AZ — ABC15 continues to highlight leaders in the Valley during Women’s History Month, introducing you to an award-winning Latina chef paving the way for girls in the culinary arts.
Samantha Sanz is Chef de Cuisine of Elements at the Sanctuary Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley.
Watching an artist at work, doesn’t always involve a paintbrush and easel. For Sanz, her art is influenced by her heritage.
“I like to express my thoughts with my flavors and with my dishes,” Sanz says. “I try to always sneak in something from my background. And it’s usually really sneaky. I don’t say anything. it’s just there. If you know you know, you know.”
Raised around her grandmother’s kitchen in Mexico, Sanz was generationally immersed in cooking.
“I grew up in that restaurant along with all my cousins,” Sanz remembers. “It was one of my loves that I didn’t realize that I had until I realized that being a chef was a career. That’s when I decided to take that route.”
Sanz now stands in her kitchen soaked in a full-circle moment. “My first job, funny enough, was here at Sanctuary. I was 18. I started working in the salad station.”
At the time, English was Sanz’s second language. For years she worked her way up the totem pole in a male-dominant profession.
“I remember going home crying. Not letting them see me cry, all these males that I work with, right? And one day I just decided I’m going to be better. I was like, just be better. That way you show them. They’re not going to pick on you. They’re not going to bully you. They’re not going to harass you anymore because you’re going to be better.”
Sanz eventually became their boss. “It was hard because I was leading a team of older males than me and I was a young female, Latina.”
Today, she's made it a priority to pave the way for women.
“I have more female cooks in my kitchen than I’ve ever had in my life,” Sanz says. “So that tells you that times might be changing.”
The decorated Valley chef was recently nominated twice for one of the most prestigious awards in culinary arts, The James Beard. Her relentless spirit pushes her to one day win the award.
“I won’t stop doing the things I do until I get the results that I want,” Sanz declares.
Sanz dreams of one day opening a restaurant but for now, she says, “My dream is just to create food and be happy.”