The owner of two restaurants that highlight Caribbean cuisine inspired by locally sourced ingredients attended the distinguished Johnson & Wales University in Bay Harbor, Florida. He also got training under the watchful eye of another renowned Puerto Rican chef, Alfredo Ayala, who founded Chayote and eventually sold it to his protege.
He currently owns three restaurants: Mario Pagán Restaurant at Condado, and SAGE Italian Steak Loft, where he focuses on modern and creole cuisine. He is also the executive chef at Melao, a modern Caribbean cuisine restaurant at the Dorado Beach Resort; and RAYA, a Caribbean - Assian fusion lounge. Chef Pagán was a contestant on the Food Network’s the Next Iron Chef and was featured as a guest chef at the James Beard House in 2014.
Chef Pagán has received accolades in a variety of publications such as Food and Wine Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Esquire Magazine, and Travel + Leisure. He is also the author of two cookbooks “Caribe: Cocinas del Mundo” (2005) and “La Gran Cocina Caribeña y sus 12 Grandes Chefs” (2004).
Chef Piñeiro’s passion in the kitchen began at a young age. When he was 18 years old he began his career as a cook at the San Juan Hotel Grand Beach Resort & Casino. He earned his degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and worked at the three Michelin star restaurant El Raco de Can Fabes with Chef Santi Santamaria in Barcelona, Spain. He also worked as chef de cuisine at Restaurante Madrid-San Juan located at the Caribe Hilton Hotel.
He now owns Mesa 364, where he has developed a closed-door restaurant and chef’s table concept, which has become an icon of Puerto Rican cuisine. Chef Piñeiro was dubbed an Ambassador of Culinary Arts at the traditional Puerto Rican Parade in New York, and he also created a line of products that have become staples of Puerto Rican kitchens. He also hosts a local cooking show.
Another graduate from the Culinary Institute of America is Chef Benet. His impressive resume includes places like Le Bernadin, The Water Club, and The Top Hub in Boston. With his cooking grounded in traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, Chef Benet opened Pikayo, a restaurant that ran for more than 20 years.
With a love for everything kitchen-related, he developed a wine label DOBLEÚ (how you pronounce “w” in Spanish) and wrote the cookbook “Puerto Rico True Flavors”. He was recognized by Wine Spectator’s Robert Parker as a “Best Buy” in 2009 and has been showcased in TV spots like Sabores de Ensueño con Wilo Benet, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and Top Chef.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Chef José Enrique has had a quick rise to the top. He worked in kitchens around the United States before returning to Puerto Rico and founding a restaurant that carries his name. There, Chef José Enrique refined a personalized menu that he prepares daily and incorporates natural and organic products that focus on local produce. A year after opening, the establishment made its way into Condé Nast Traveler’s 105 best new restaurants list.
In 2013, José Enrique was featured in the 25th Anniversary edition of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” and was chosen as a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation award in the category of "Best Chef South," marking the first time in history a Puerto Rican chef has been nominated for this award.
She prepared herself with a degree in Marketing, but her love for the kitchen led her to attend Johnson and Wales University where she studied Culinary Arts. Later, Chef González interned at La Broche, a two Michelin Star restaurant in Madrid, Spain where she learned the fundamentals of operating a high-end kitchen.
Before returning to the island as an executive chef at Caña restaurant, González opened her own restaurant at South Beach Florida called Barceloneta Mercat and Bistro. At Caña, González takes her first stab at cooking Puerto Rican food in a restaurant where she combines the techniques learned through years in renowned kitchens with the food of her childhood. In 2012, she won the Zest Awards for newcomer of the year.
This engineer-turned-chef entered the kitchen for the first time as a coincidence. Chef Hernández worked his way up from busboy to waiter, making his way through various kitchens in San Juan. In 2009, he opened Verde Mesa, a place that started as a pescatarian restaurant and quickly evolved to more elevated cuisine. Verde Mesa now presents dishes that showcase Mediterranean, French, and Caribbean influences. In 2018, Chef Hernández was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award.