Ria Montes has been chef de cuisine of Estuary at the Conrad Washington, D.C., hotel for a little over a year now, and in celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, this Filipina American celebrated with her guests by laying out a traditional kamayan feast. Literally meaning “by hand,” this smörgåsbord is a customary celebration among family and friends.
Montes was raised in a Filipino family in the Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills, N.Y., and developed a love of cooking when preparing meals with that family.
She attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City and began cooking in restaurants there, including Smith & Wollensky and Andaz. She later moved to D.C. to work as sous chef under Brad Deboy at Blue Duck Tavern, and then moved on to work for Opie Brooks at A Rake’s Progress. That restaurant closed during lockdown and Montes worked at Albi, also. In D.C., and then rejoined Brooks at a new restaurant No Goodbyes, before joining the Conrad team.
In this interview she discusses working with her senior sous chef Sean Tew, collaborating with other women chefs as well as sommeliers and farmers, and what she loves most about working in restaurants.