Up and coming Chef Lexx Ambrose is creating waves in the Calgary vegan world. Her food is delicious, creative and habit-forming.
“Breaking boundaries inspires me,” Ambrose says. “Plants are an untapped source of creativity and I love trying new flavour profiles. I try to take food to the next level,” she explains. “I’m drawn to the technical flair and art side, always searching for the ‘Oh wow!’ moment. Art was really my first love and as a chef I try to make art you can eat!”
Ambrose considers herself a ‘freelance chef’ and isn’t currently attached to a specific restaurant. Her business ‘Plant Plate’ focuses on catering, vegan food workshops plus meal preparation for a variety of clients.
Growing up in Calgary, Ambrose says eating a plant-based diet definitely wasn’t on the meal plan.
“My mom was not a cook,” she laughs, “and I grew up on microwaved meals. It wasn’t until I graduated from high school and was living with a bunch of roommates that I even learned to cook.”
Watching one of her roommates chop and prepare food was an epiphany for Ambrose.
“It blew my mind and I decided to do something like that,” she explained.
She began applying to restaurants and was taken on by Cactus Club where she become a sous chef within a year. She transferred locations when she moved to take the culinary arts program at Vancouver Community College.
“I’ve always been an animal lover and when I moved to Vancouver I was introduced to a vegetarian lifestyle right away by a friend. I decided to try it for a year and never looked back!”
After that she became fully vegan and says she couldn’t go back now to a meat-based diet.
“I never thought I’d be successful as a vegan chef,” Ambrose admits. “But I decided to take the risk and walked into Zend which was a vegan restaurant in Vancouver. I offered to do anything, even bussing tables, if they’d take me!”
Soon she was 25 years old, running Zend and also studying with Matthew Kenney’s vegan culinary school – PlantLab – by correspondence. After a couple of years, she moved back to Calgary and spent a year with the vegan-friendly Dandelion Café as a co-owner and one of the chefs.
Today, in addition to managing her business, Ambrose enjoys volunteering with The Alice Sanctuary located north of Calgary which houses over 100 farm animals.
“It’s a magical place. You feel grounded. And you can tell the animals are happy. I did a fundraiser dinner and movie night for them this summer. I love advocating for animals.”
As a vegan chef, Ambrose says Thai food and flavours are big influences for her and provide inspiration for new creations.
“I love lemongrass – it’s a nice undertone flavour profile that hits you at all the right levels. And my favourite food is young Thai coconut meat. It’s such a versatile ingredient. It’s delicious on its own and you can use it in anything.”
From a high school graduate who couldn’t cook to a top Calgary vegan chef 10 years later, Ambrose has truly evolved. And with her youthful enthusiasm and talent for developing creative, unforgettable vegan dishes, her star is certain to keep rising.