Father, husband, food lover, hypochondriac, Mets/Saints fan, writer, traveler, and blogger.
Born in Stamford, Connecticut of Puerto Rican parents, but raised by my mom’s cooking in the rural mountain town of Utuado in the Cordillera Central of Puerto Rico. At the age of 20 moved to the southern city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and after 10 years there I moved back to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Utuado is a town where agriculture once was king. Tobacco, coffee, oranges, and even sugarcane was planted, grown and eaten. It was the way of life. Then came industrialization, and supermarkets, cafeterias and diners, and roadside food trucks. Agriculture went down.
By 1990, more or less, my dad opened a Puerto Rican style diner/cafeteria/restaurant, where traditional food such as rice and beans, rotisserie chicken, pork, arroz con gandules, stews and fricassees, and all many others were served. In that little place, I first learned about food, its preparation, serving it, cooking it and the spices used by my dad to season his dishes, especially the chicken.
That was my first restaurant job, 1991. After that, I worked in San Juan at The Chart House and in various other restaurants in New Orleans including Red Fish Grill, Muriel’s Jackson Square, and Marisol.
I did it all, washed dishes in San Juan, cleaned bathrooms in Utuado, shucked oysters in the French Quarter, waited tables, bartend, worked the grill, trained, managed, well, pretty much everything.
My food influences are wide. I still remember the first time I had sushi in New Orleans with my friend Vu. It was in the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience when I first ate nutria. Crawfish, andouille sausage, po’boys, and other Louisiana great dishes were part of the new flavors I tasted in my 10 year stay in that southern city.
But I come from the land of the mofongo, arroz con gandules, whole-roasted pork, goat fricassée, pasteles, and many other great dishes, flavors, and influences.
The places I was raised and the city I moved to as a young adult definitely gave me a base for so many other flavors that I discovered in my own trips and places of work. Working with so many chefs and in different restaurants expanded those flavors. Friends of other cultures and nationalities also gave me new bites. Yet, back in San Juan, I want to find out where Puerto Rican food comes from and what it is.
So here I am, hoping to find out where our food comes from and how it was influenced by historic invasions, political climate, American culture, economic crisis, hurricanes, visitors and with whatever else was influenced by.