Meet Malyna Si, The Only Female Chef Leading A Florida Michelin-Starred Restaurant

“I had no interest in being in the kitchen as a child or even as a young adult.” It’s a bit of a surprising statement coming from Malyna Si, who was just promoted to Restaurant Chef of Capa, Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort’s dazzling rooftop and Michelin-starred restaurant after working five years as the Sous Chef. (Also worth noting: she is the only female to lead a Michelin restaurant in the state of Florida.)

Though Si didn’t start cooking professionally until after college—when she honed her knife skills and mastered sauces as a prep cook—she did grow up surrounded by all kinds of food thanks to her Vietnamese, Chinese, and Laotian mother and Cambodian father. She recalls, from a very young age, helping her family with time-intensive tasks like pounding Kroeung (Cambodian mirepoix) in the mortar and pestle, indulging in fiery, chili-flecked larb, and taking great pride in making as much as possible from scratch. She explains, “Although unintentional, I came to view this understanding of my heritage as an advantage as I began to navigate different kitchens throughout my career.”

Here, Si shares why she loves working with Four Seasons, her philosophy in the kitchen, and her favorite dishes at Capa.

Katie Chang: Congrats on your recent promotion. What do you love about working at Capa and with Four Seasons?

Si: I love my team. We share the same passion about food and about making people happy through that medium. Everyone truly rallies around this sense of camaraderie, a passion for the standards, and in celebration of each other’s ideas. What I love about working for Four Seasons is that they share my vision for the restaurant. They fully facilitate this vision and are unwilling to compromise quality. I’m empowered to pursue the best for the restaurant and am fully entrusted with the operation.

How would you describe your cooking philosophy?

Si: I’m looking for balance of flavor and texture, supported by the highest quality ingredients. I’m constantly experimenting so I can provide the best result by the time our guests are ordering the items. I enjoy researching and sourcing unique or rare ingredients. I love the look of someone who is trying something for the first time; it’s as if they’ve learned an entirely new word. The language of cooking is vast, and I love being the one to provide someone with new information about specific ingredients. Knowledge of cuisine is about exposure, and tastes are made with the discovery of well-prepared ingredients.

How do you develop new recipes?

Si: I’ve been fortunate to build strong relationships with several purveyors in Central Florida. Those individuals often reach out to me with the opportunity to try something new or seasonal. Sometimes I’ll go to the grocery store on my days off without an objective, just wandering the aisles until something catches my attention. My dishes are often born from the focus on single ingredients. From there, I think of the interplay between moisture, acidity, and temperature. I’m thinking deeply about the entire experience. No two palates are the same; the variability and volatility of creating a dish is what’s so exciting to me.

For first-time visitors to Capa: what dishes would you recommend?

Si: Pan Con Tomate represents what Spanish cooking is about, showcasing beautiful ingredients in their natural state. What sets ours apart is the house baked bread that is brushed with butter and then grilled on our signature wood fire grill. The 40-year aged sherry vinegar offers a deeply smooth acidity along with the local Roma tomatoes. Finely grated fresh raw garlic lends a punchy scent without overpowering the dish.

I’m also really proud of the Platinum Wagyu X line that we carry from Fort Davis, Texas, for our Short Rib. Nobody else in Central Florida uses the platinum, their highest grade, in Central Florida. This short rib is phenomenally rich like the Japanese counterpart, but tailored for the American palate with a true beefy flavor. It’s fork tender, and braised with Spanish rioja. The sauce that comes along with it is made from the braising liquid and puréed mirepoix. Our guests who enjoy a truly rich experience will go as far to add on a bone marrow canoe or portion of foie gras.

The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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