Puerto Rico: Sun, Sea, Sand and great Food: The Avant Garde Chefs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Carole Kotkin   
Monday, 26 November 2012 23:04

 Like all Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico is blessed with sun, sand and sea, but it is the unique and world-class quality of their emerging gastronomic scene that enables Puerto Rico to provide unparalleled culinary travel experiences for even the most discerning palates.

As a territory of the United States, visiting Puerto Rico is easy without the hassle of a passport, the need to exchange currency or learn a new language. San Juan boasts a vibrant and eclectic culinary scene with local and international chefs serving good food from candlelit gourmet spots to fish shacks by the side of the road.

Traditional French cuisine is widely available throughout the island but young chefs are beginning to define a creative cuisine unique to Puerto Rico using local Caribbean ingredients. Many chefs are experimenting with small farms in an attempt to decrease dependence on foreign ingredients. But what really sets Puerto Rico apart is its Creole flair. A sublime blend of African, Indian, European and Caribbean flavors, Puerto Rico's Creole culinary concepts keep visitors coming back.


Considered by many to be San Juan's best restaurant, Pikayo in Condado, is the creation of celebrity chef Wilo Benet. Cookbook author and television personality, Benet takes traditional peasant Puerto Rican cooking and marries it to more sophisticated tastes and techniques he learned from the mainland while studying at The Culinary Institute of America and working at Le Bernardin and The Water Club in Manhattan. You may have seen him on Season One of TV's Top Chef Masters. Chef Wilo has his own wine label, DOBLEÚ, which was recognized by Robert Parker as a "Best Buy" in the 2009 edition of Wine Advocate.


In the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan, not far from the farmers' market at La Placita, Chef José Santaella has opened Santaella in a former hardware store. Santaella is one of the new guard representing the resurgence of national cuisine after years of mimicking European characteristics. Santaella trained in Barcelona, New York and San Francisco, with master chefs Ferrán Adriá (El Bulli), Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin), and Gary Danko (The Dining Room).

Chef Maria Germania Diaz, born in the Dominican Republic, heads the kitchen at the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza where she flavors her food with the ingredients and techniques learned from her mother and grandmother. She fuses ingredients like soy sauce, basil, and rosewater into traditional Puerto Rican dishes.


Jeremie Cruz, executive chef of Eclipse Restaurant at the Villa Montana Beach Resort in Isabela, was born in New York City and moved to Puerto Rico as a teenager. He became a prep cook at the Conquistador Resort and won a culinary scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America. Cruz was a member of the National Culinary Team of Puerto Rico and was named Caribbean chef of the year in 1998. He trained in France with Paul Bocuse, Gerald Boyer, and Phillipe Legande. Cruz represented Puerto Rico at the Rising Star Chefs awards at the James Beard Foundation in 2000. His menus at the Villa Montana Beach Resort are based on local seafood and agriculture.  Listen to an interview with chef Jeremie Cruz on FOOD & WINE TALK WSFG

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 00:17

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