Julie Marteleira is the Executive Chef of Lena Restaurant where she works alongside Chef Anthony Walsh to craft dishes that showcase vibrant Latin flavours and unite guests in intimate, authentic and colourful ways. Born in Toronto and raised in Lisbon, Portugal, Marteleira is driven by a passion to create exceptional cuisine with an international flare.
In 2010, Chef Julie joined Oliver & Bonacini and quickly became an integral part of the team. Most recently, she has served as Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants’ Executive Chef Tournant, guiding the culinary teams at Jump, Auberge du Pommier, and Luma.
In honour of International Women's Day, we are celebrating five Torontonians who inspire us and who are each making a lasting impact in their own unique way.
Elle: What’s been your biggest adventure to date?
Julie: I took a year off a couple of years ago and spent it in Spain and Portugal. Initially I went with the intention of working and maybe getting a job. I was 28 at the time, I had worked already and I was a sous chef. When I got there, I got to enjoy my industry from the other side. For the first two weeks, I was with my sister and then I was on my own for the rest of the trip. That was my first time travelling alone for so long. I got to check out so many restaurants that I always aspired to be at. I love the food and I love the culture so the trip was very personal to me.
Elle: What did you learn about yourself through this experience?
Julie: It was a lot that I already knew. A lot of affirmations and confirmations about what I wanted to do with my career in the future, almost like a ‘yes’ stamp. Like yes, I really do like this, yes, I really want to go down this path. And that I like being on my own and doing what I want.
Elle: Who or what inspires you?
Julie: Definitely my family. One of my first inspirations was my mom. We grew up with large parties and lots of people over and food was always central. Anywhere we went it was ten people with enough food for forty. All these different things and trying new things. My mom also exposed us to new cultures growing up in Toronto, we weren’t just limited to Portuguese food. And when we lived in Portugal we owned a restaurant where my mom was the chef and she was the force behind that.
Elle: What drives you?
Julie: For me I always look at end goals. You set yourself short-term and long-term goals. For me one day I want to be a restaurateur, be an owner, while still always being a chef of course. I love restaurants that are chef-driven not front of house driven. That’s the goal but for me even from a young age, cooking was a way of travelling, a way of learning new cultures and a way of just conviviality. I grew up with that, the parties, the food, the warmth of showing our culture through cooking. I want to pass that on to other people.
Elle: One person living or dead you’d like to have a conversation with.
Julie: I love art and fashion. I’d love to meet Picasso, I am a big fan of his art. He is really out there, strange and weird and the conversation would probably be weird but I’d love that. And Coco Chanel as she was a big force for women, changing the structure, the style, the way the women were looked at. I have always been a big admirer of her and what she did.
Elle: First word that comes to your mind if I ask you to describe yourself.
Julie: Intense. A lot of people look at me like that at first. I am the same person in and out of work but a little less intense out of work. I’m down to earth and at same time a little introverted. I take time to open up and to really show myself to people so I come off as intense in the beginning.
Elle: What is your favorite word or phrase in Portuguese?
Julie: I love to say "Então pá". It’s like ‘hi, how are you?’ It translates to different things based on the intonation. It’s endearing, it’s heartwarming and you can say it in a more angry tone or just be friendly.
Elle: Finish this sentence, I know for sure...
Julie: You never stop learning. Ever. In life or anything. I tell young cooks all the time that you never stop learning as there are so many different cuisines, techniques and things that pop up every day that are new. That’s what exciting and daunting as you will never be a master at everything – you will never cover everything and there is so much to keep learning. I think this translates so much into life.
Elle: At Zvelle, we believe we are in the business of inspiring women to use their voice through fashion. What does using your voice mean to you?
Julie: For me especially in my industry I see it as being a role model for other women, for young chefs, because in our industry I’d say 10% or less are women. I remember coming up in the kitchen and a lot of times I was the only woman. Sometimes girls drop off their resumes at the restaurant and I never think anyone knows me so I am like, ‘Hi I’m chef Julie.’ And they are like, “I know who you are, I looked you up, I want to work for you and I like what you’ve done and you are a woman!”
You see chefs, you read books, you see things on TV, and you aspire to be like them. So, to have role models for young female chefs is very important.
Photography: Mark Binks