Photo credit: Seabream 

Jill Martinez-Montinola is no stranger to the Las Vegas culinary scene. She started as a pastry cook at renowned Jean Georges in New York. She moved to Las Vegas in 2005 and landed a position as a pastry chef at the Wynn Resort and Casino. Just a few short years later she became the head pastry chef at SushiSamba at The Palazzo Resort and Casino. She caught celebrity chef Scott Conant’s attention and moved to Scarpetta in Miami as Executive Pastry Chef. While in Miami, she returned to SushiSamba and Sugarcane as Regional Pastry Chef for both venues. In 2014, Martinez-Montinola joined the kitchen at Seaspice as Executive Pastry Chef and now has returned to Las Vegas as SeaBream’s Chef/Owner. 

How did this opportunity to open SeaBream come about?

By chance! We were traveling on the west coast and my cousin told me about the opportunity. I had a short meeting with the investors and that was about it. I went back to Miami and was contacted a few months later. They told me that there was a change in direction and wanted me to take over the project. I talked it over with family and here I am. I felt that at this time in my career I am ready to take on more challenges to make me a better chef and person.

You have been a pasty chef for many years. How will you use your skills at SeaBream?  

Yes, I have been a pastry chef for 16 years at very high levels. For many years behind the kitchen door I did much more than that. I created menus and helped at various stations.  I learned how to cut fish and meat and cook differently. At home I cook a lot for my family and friends. When you love what you do you just take it on. 

What is the concept of SeaBream?

It is an Asian inspired restaurant. I am using different techniques and ingredients from all over Asia. The dishes are inspired by Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China and the Philippines on one plate. People may have not seen it before, but they will know what it is because the flavors are there. I am tapping into things I didn’t know I had. What I love to eat is what I love to cook. For example, I have a grilled New York steak and bone marrow with yakiniku, Malaysian crab sambal and bitter melon atchara on the menu, as well as a watercress salad with Asian pear, salted egg vinaigrette and shaved salted egg on top. 

Is there anything that has surprised you about opening a brand-new restaurant?

Waiting for permits, all the details, the nitty gritty of getting things done. Working with Tivoli management and learning about AC-basically it’s everything from floor to ceiling. It’s all about the details.

What hours do you anticipate SeaBream to be open? 

We will be open for lunch and dinner. For the first month it will just be dinner opening from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. That will include a Happy Hour as well. We will have a handcrafted cocktail program and snacks all day that are well priced. 

This looks like it will certainly be a family operation. You have a young daughter; will she be around as well?

Oh yes. She will grow up in the restaurant (industry) and will be here every day when not in school.

What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a chef or going to culinary school?

Learn as much as you can. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes make you who you are. You learn through experience and understand the art of cooking and the relationship with food and techniques. I didn’t go to school. I feel it. I taste it. I fail sometimes. Now I know what not to do and what to do. Mentoring is important as well. Continue to learn and experience things. Taste and feel the food.  

Martinez-Montinola is a talented, creative and passionate chef and now restaurateur who has honed her culinary skills for 16 years in some of the finest kitchens and on the east coast alongside celebrity chefs. One can’t help but be excited as she brings years of culinary acumen and experience to her own SeaBream in Tivoli Village. It’s going to be fun to watch, taste and enjoy as she branches out with her own flavorful style at this brand new Las Vegas venue.