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Imrun Texeira wants to take you on a journey; one told through a procession of splendorous, Michelin-calibre courses that bring a lifetime of adventures to your plate. Throughout a career that spans 15 years and counting — despite that fact that he falls into the Millennial age bracket — Texeira has gathered an abundance of experience, a fervent appreciation for cooking and the art of plating, and enough inspiration to animate countless menus. Through Wanderlust, his new luxury private dining venture, Texeira offers an international dining adventure in the comfort of your own home.
Looking at where he is today, it’s hard to believe that Imrun Texeira’s career began, at the age of 14, with an entry-level job at Lone Star Texas Grill. “It was nothing glamorous,” he admits, “but it gave me an early insight into the kitchen.” Ambitious from the get-go, Texeira says, “within a few months, I coaxed my kitchen manager to let me work the line. ... It was really cool to have that kind of insight at the age of 14.”
That same sense of purpose and drive have defined Texeira’s entire career. During high-school, a co-op program afforded him the opportunity to work at The Brookstreet Hotel, “a renowned resort” in the Ottawa area. “It was amazing to see different realms of the business of that calibre,” he says, explaining the lessons learned from catering sophisticated functions and cooking for the resort’s varied venues, ranging from a lounge and golf course, to an award-winning, fine dining restaurant. “All the chefs in that building came from a formal culinary background,” he explains, hinting at the spark that ignited his proclivity for food that challenges expectations, that exists not only to sate but to thrill.
After his time at The Brookstreet Hotel, Texeira continued his upward trajectory at Algonquin College, and in the Ottawa area. “From Brookstreet, from Algonquin, I’ve been able to work with some of the biggest chefs, including Rene Rodriguez, the season 4 winner of Top Chef Canada.” Inspired by Rodriguez’s momentous moments in the limelight, Texeira went on to appear on Food Network’s Chopped Canada and Top Chef Canada, season 8. “It was amazing to see his experience on the TV show and what that can do for business,” explains Texeira. “Rodriguez was a big supporter, big mentor in pushing me toward those opportunities.”
It was after this time that Texeira followed his wanderlust, his urge to learn more and to connect to his past, with a move to the UK. “My family and I all have dual citizenship,” he explains. “It was always my passion to move back there to see some of my family and to see what the world there had to offer.” The tour lived up to every expectation, providing Texeira with the type of world-class, Michelin-starred training he craved. “I travelled around London and England and had internships and stages at some top-rated Michelin restaurants of the time,” he says. “It was absolutely amazing to see the food culture they have there and compare it to what we have here in North America. It’s just a completely different animal.” Alongside Claude Bosi, Tom Kerridge, and other culinary heavyweights, Texeira refined his already considerable skills.
“An every-changing, travelling restaurant,” Wanderlust, says Texeira, is the culmination of years of training and seeing the world combined with the post-pandemic restaurant landscape. “A lot of restaurants that focus on tasting menus or blind tasting menus have changed or closed down for good. The ones that remained, the styles or flavours or focus, just wasn’t for me,” Texeira says. “Now, I’m able to curate these very intimate, one-off menus and experiences. …There is still a demographic of people who want this, who want blind tasting menus that push the boundaries.” Beyond that, “the creativity, the food, the style of service, all of those little things differentiate [Wanderlust]. They’re similar to what you’ll find in a Michelin-starred establishment,” Texeira assures. For each event, the team brings “the food, plates, cutlery, cookware, and special tools,” he explains. “I really want clients to feel that they’re in the most comfortable space but we’re really transforming that place. They’re not using the cutlery they use every day. It’s a special experience.”
Surprising and striking, Texeira’s food is as extraordinary as his journey thus far predicts it might be. Offering “modern Indian cuisine,” Wanderlust’s menus draw as much on Texeira’s heritage as they do on his years in the hospitality industry. “My parents are of South Asian descent, from India. My mom was born and raised in east Africa, they met and grew up in central London. I’m trying to pull in flavours from those backgrounds but then pull in techniques I’ve learned here and abroad.” The goal, he says, is to utilize modern practices to turn the flavours and traditions from the homelands into something entirely new. “I’m not serving any naan and curries and rice,” he clarifies. "It’s definitely nothing traditional, which is a lot of fun for me.”
Employ Texeira for your next event, and you’ll encounter a tasting menu composed of dish after dish plated with a surgeon’s precision, an artist’s eye for colour and composition, and a chef’s aptitude with flavour. Texeira learned early on, “the emotion that you can evoke just based on the aesthetics and the look of a dish alone, even before the taste.” He assures, “I don’t want to sacrifice one for the other but when you have that perfect harmony, it’s a beautiful marriage.”
In his hands, a dish of duck confit and foie is worlds away from the French culinary canon. Here, a terrine of foie, confit and Turkish coffee lies neatly beside three crystalline cubes of clarified passion fruit gelée. A twee robot formed from foie mousse exposes Texeira’s penchant for whimsy. “These are flavours you probably don’t always see with foie but these are flavours that I grew up with. Aesthetically, the dish looks completely wild and the flavours are so unique,” he says, contentedly.
Beyond his work with Wanderlust, Texeira has found a calling as a public speaker, working to inspire the next generation of food industry professionals. “During the school year I talk to a couple of hundred kids a week,” he reports. “I talk about the wider range of jobs available in the industry. … I really try to showcase that it’s not just working at restaurants, hotels and resorts. There’s a massive range of jobs to be had.” Through his work with The Burnt Chef Project, Texeira has also sought to improve the industry he loves by advocating for better work conditions and mental health supports for those in hospitality.
Taking his own wanderlust in a new direction, Texeira says he “wants to plant roots here and build a name in this country." As he whisks us off on fanciful flights of flavour, supports local youth and rallies for a brighter future for his industry, Imrun Texeira is a name you’ll be hearing a lot more frequently from now on in.