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Women Explorers: Ana Esteves

There are no boundaries to where you can go; find places not a lot of people go to and enjoy every smell and every sight.

Vice President, Hotel Operations, Lindblad Expeditions, and “Chef” Forever

An adventurer in the realm of the senses

Ana is an adventurer in the realm of the senses. If one could map her explorations in the food world, she would have landmarks named for her on several continents! 

 

One could say she was born to do what she does. Her grandmother on her mother’s side was Lebanese, a food that remains Ana’s favorite to this day. Her grandmother on her father’s side owned a catering company in Caracas, Venezula where Ana was born.

In 2001, her family relocated to the United States, and at a very young age, she started cooking at a Miami restaurant owned by one of Caracas’ most renowned chefs. There she went from loving food to loving the food industry: the pace and adrenaline of a busy service, the balance of colors, textures and flavors and the limitless combinations possible. She knew she wanted to be a chef—to develop the discipline, focus, and skills. 

 

After traveling, living, and working in Europe for a year, studying cuisine at the root; and graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management (and a minor in wine technology), she rocketed from career achievement to achievement, including, at age 22, taking on the mantle of Executive Chef and taking a Beijing restaurant to #1 in the city for three consecutive years.

 

Ana is responsible for the quality of the food program, and the galley staff, aboard our ships. But it is her innovation that we’re celebrating here.

 

Inspired by the lush beauty of the land while aboard our ships in Galápagos, Ana reached out through a connection to the Minister of Agriculture, and went with a team to visit some farmers. She formed relationships, and subsequently launched a farm-to-table program in the islands, that has gained wide positive recognition, including from the Galápagos Minister of Agriculture, for provisioning more than 30 tons of organic and local produce for our two expedition ships over an 18-month period.

 

On the culinary side, the program has helped Ana and her team design menus with a focus on wellness, including healthier options and taking advantage of Andean superfoods native to Ecuador, including cocoa nibs, Amaranth, Quinoa, Maca root, chucho, and other natural ingredients.

 

Ana’s local, sustainable focus extends to the beverage menu as well, as the ships now feature a wide selection of Ecuadorian artisanal beers–Endemica, produced in small batches on San Cristobal island—making Lindblad Expeditions the first cruise company to serve local craft brew.


But the Galapagos program is just the beginning of our Farm-to-Table initiative. Ana has leveraged our long-term relationship with a hydroponic farm in the Falkland Islands, and is eying possibilities in Costa Rica, the Arctic and more. Ana approaches her work with incredible passion and detail and is always searching for creative ways to whet our guests' appetites. It is for those reasons and many more that she recently earned a well-deserved promotion to Vice President of Hotel Operations.

 

An expedition travels on its stomach, and Ana lives to feed the expeditionary spirit in all of us. We celebrate her drive to make an impact, to create memorable experiences, and to play with people’s emotions (in a good way) as she takes them on incredible voyages—through food.

We asked Ana Esteves:

Why do you explore?

To learn and experience things that are foreign to me. To be able to leave a footprint where I go; and to be reminded and grateful for the opportunities.

 

What is the dream exploration you haven’t done…yet?

South Georgia and the Falkland Islands

 

Name a female hero and why. 

Junko Tablei—the first woman to summit Mt Everest

What’s your advice for the next generation of women explorers?

Keep exploring, and traveling! Immerse yourselves in any culture you come across; understand how they live, eat, and think. Learn their beliefs and traditions, and what excites them; only then will you be able to fully understand a destination, and be part of it.

 

There are no boundaries to where you can go, find places not a lot of people go to, and enjoy every smell and every sight. Find something meaningful in everyplace, and give back whatever, and whenever you can to contribute to positively impact those places you explore. Keep a journal and document your findings, and feelings. Take lots of pictures, but take a moment to enjoy where you are at, and see it through your eyes instead of a lens.

 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

If I could have a superpower it would be to speak every language in the world! I have lived in six countries and speak four languages (English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin). I have traveled through northern Vietnam on my 1967 Vespa. And I climbed the tiger’s nest in Bhutan in 43 minutes.