Samantha Quintero, Sous Chef

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A Year in the Life

Samantha Quintero, Sous Chef

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Despite the many challenges that 2020 brought with it, chef Samantha Quintero says it was still “the best year of my life, thus far.”

Just before the pandemic struck, the sous chef at Night+Market Sahm in Los Angeles had finished a successful Off Menu Week where she put together her very own menu, inspired by family picnics at the park growing up in LA and, best of all, in mid-March, she and her fiancé, Kary, tied the knot.

By late summer, Quintero was back at work, on the line, leading her all-women kitchen staff and by fall, she added a new title: mom.

“In a way, COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise for me,” she says. “I took some time for myself, my family, and friends. It was something that I hadn’t done in a good 10 years. And as the saying goes, I stopped and smelled the roses.”

Her story of the last 12 months follows.

 

March 2020: On March 18, I got married to my fiancé, Kary. At the moment, the pandemic was just starting and everything around us was coming to a halt. One thing we were both certain of was our love. Our wedding was small and very last minute. We literally decided to get married from one day to the next. But everything seemed to be falling perfectly in place, as it was meant to be.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

April 2020: Unfortunately, Night + Market closed for a short period of time as things seemed uneasy in business, political, and social affairs. Every now and then, I would make my way back to work to feed the fish at the restaurant. At times, things seemed like they were never going to get better. But I never let this stop me from being positive and thinking about the future and what new dishes I could create, like these oysters.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

May 2020: My husband and I took a trip down to Joshua Tree with our closest friends. At this point in time, I was four months pregnant but I did some rock climbing, believe it or not. And I cooked dinner for our friends. Everything I cooked was over a charcoal Weber grill. There was grilled fish, beans, steamed clams, and a cucumber tomato salad to balance out the smokiness and char from the fish. To me, this was a simple meal. To my friends, it was a Michelin-starred meal, especially compared to the meal they had when they first came to Joshua Tree and cooked for themselves. Long story short, they dropped the only piece of chicken that they had cooked off decently on the desert floor and burned their beans. They were so grateful for the dinner, and in that moment in time I was so thankful to have friends like them in such troubling times. It made everything seem that much better.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

June 2020: My family threw me a gender reveal party. That day, I found out we were having a baby boy.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

July 2020: During this month, I worked hard on my pickling game. I have not always liked pickles, but I have grown to love them. I like to pickle almost anything, although my two favorite things to pickle would have to be red onions, almost like an escabeche, and jalapeños, Mexican style. At the beginning of July is when I went back to work as well. Chef [Kris Yenbamroong] decided to open Sahm again and it felt so good to walk back into the restaurant. By this time, I had a full belly and my kitchen staff was so supportive and helpful at all times. I couldn't have asked for a better staff.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

August 2020: August was an amazing month and even better send off from my Night + Market Sahm Family. Chef Kris cooked a phenomenal meal and his wife, Sarah, who at the time was also pregnant, got some delicious sweets for me and the staff. I was working with a full belly and all, ready to pop. At that moment in time I felt so blessed and grateful to work with such an amazing team. From the owners and the dishwashers to the cooks, this place is run by such great people.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

September 2020: A week after I left for my maternity leave, I had to be induced into labor. My husband and I rushed into the hospital. Three days later, at 12:30 a.m., Kyan was born. Being a new mom has changed me in so many positive ways. I felt like a new me was arising. My walk was different, and the way I carried myself was perpetually in full confidence of who I was. In a way, I felt like I became complete. To top it off my husband and I had amazing support from family, friends, and co-workers.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

October 2020: I had the opportunity to enjoy my new little family and as well as celebrate my husband's birthday.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

November 2020: Besides November being the best month of the year because of Thanksgiving, my boss gave birth to her baby on November 17. Sarah is the wife of Chef Kris Yenbamroong and boss of Night + Market. She is someone I admire a lot. She is strong, kind hearted, carries herself with such grace, and let's not forget the boss babe that she is!

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

November 2020: I enjoyed some time with my wonderful husband. Let me tell you, being new parents, it's an adjustment within itself. I couldn't ask for a better partner to do it with. I am beyond lucky.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

December 2020: Even though 2020 had a great ordeal of uncertainty, my year ended with a big bang, to say the least. Running an all-women crew is amazing and very empowering. Seeing the progress from each line cook, starting from their hiring date to present date, is unbelievable. Just like chef Kris has given me an opportunity, I feel like I have the same obligation toward my crew, not only as a boss, but as a woman. I ran Night + Market Sahm by myself for a period of two weeks. It was an exciting challenge where I pushed myself further than my limits. I worked long hours and missed my newborn so much, but it was all worth it. I grew professionally. This opportunity really helped me envision how I would like to run a restaurant of my own one day.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

January 2021: My son helped me manage labor costs for the month of January. Looking back, this past year also opened my eyes to balancing both my work life and personal life.

February 2021: A red velvet cake with a coconut cream cheese frosting.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

March 2021: I turned 30 on March 9. I'm super excited for what's to come. I'm in a great place in my life, and I feel that it's only getting better. I've accomplished so much and I can't wait to make more of my everyday visions and dreams come to a reality.

Photo Courtesy Samantha Quintero

Read More Stories From Resy's Special Project: A Year in the Life of Restaurant Workers

A Year in the Life

Samantha Quintero, Sous Chef

NIGHT+MARKET SAHM

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