Born in Vancouver with Jamaican and Filipino roots, Andrea Alridge says her grandmothers inspired her love of food and “taught her the fundamentals of cooking at a young age.” In fact, her first and favourite food memory was learning how to make curry goat, a staple in Caribbean cuisine.
Fast forward to 2022, and Alridge is head chef at Vancouver’s Savio Volpe, where she operates a “tiny but mighty” grill. Styled after classic osteria-rustic fare, Savio Volpe offers a short menu of local specialities, such as spaghetti made with broccolini and stinging-nettle pesto, pecorino and Sicilian pistachio ($34); acquerello risotto, made with red wine, mushrooms and black truffles ($42); and B.C. halibut, served with saffron nage, charred spring onion and salsa verde ($45).
“Everything is prepared in the simplest, most flavourful ways,” says Alridge. “Pasta is freshly handmade every day and the beef, poultry and fish are kissed by smoke over the wood-fired grill and rotisserie.”
Prior to becoming a chef, Alridge was looking to pursue a career in computer sciences and graphic design, but the idea was quickly re-routed while working part-time at Vancouver-based Urban Fare as a barista when she was a senior in high school.
“I was quite fascinated with the entire schematics of the kitchen set up and started poking around and asking questions,” says Alridge. “Before I knew it, the team was showing me how to prepare all sorts of items on the menu. I quickly realized that I couldn’t sit in front of a computer all day — I belonged in a kitchen working with my hands.”
After graduating from Vancouver Community College, Alridge spent time refining her culinary skills at various restaurants in the Vancouver area, such as Cactus Club Café and Raincity Grill. Most recently, Alridge was chef de cuisine at CinCin Ristorante & Bar, where she stayed for the last nine years before taking the helm at Savio Volpe. It was here that she fell in love with fire.
“Spending quite a bit of time at CinCin, working with a forno pizza oven and an open-fire grill really influenced me,” says Alridge. “There’s something very special about working with a fire, it’s almost spiritual. CinCin taught me that and it’s something that will stay with me forever.”
Alridge says her greatest accomplishment thus far was becoming a finalist on season nine of Top Chef Canada. In her early 30s, Alridge’s future burns bright as she continues to educate herself, as well as others, about cooking with fire.
“I want to teach people that wood-fire cooking isn’t just steaks on a grill,” says Alridge. “It’s so much more.”
By Nicole Di Tomasso