Updated: May 3, 2021
Executive Chef & Beverage Director of Mill & Main Street Restaurant. Still in construction and was delayed at least 4 months due to COVID. Slated for a June/July opening in Summer 2021.
I grew up in a family of cooks and our dinner table being the bridge that brought us all together almost every night. I am Colombian, Italian, and Antiguan which has created very flavorful and colorful food memories for me throughout my childhood. I started working at my aunt's restaurant in Camden, Maine at the ripe age of 13 scooping ice cream and watching and learning, from there it was a catapult into the deep end of NYC restaurants. From this point on I spent my time throughout high school and college trying to find balance in working as much as possible to sustain myself and grow toward this internal goal of one day having my own space. I worked mostly in front of the house, where I felt compensated appropriately for the work I did… for the most part. From North End Grill shucking oysters and splitting lobsters to slinging pizza out in Olympia, Washington to my return to New York going through the FARMS Apprenticeship at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I tried to gain as much perspective as possible and glean from each work environment and kitchen what felt useful, new, and helped push me further in my thought process. To where I am now and working alongside my parents and all of us taking our experiences and creating this hopefully cohesive and well-received restaurant and marketplace in Kerhonkson, New York.
If you could go back in time what advice would you give your younger self when starting in the industry? Read more, I think there was a lot that I learned through hands on experience at a very young age that might have jaded me moving forward. In hindsight I think having taken the time to read more and educate myself I wouldn't have had to be introduced to certain concepts by already burnt out and slightly depressing people who had no energy left for their own path.
When you were building your career how limited were your resources? My resources were pretty limited, I had the luxury of my mom having worked in the industry most of her life, allowing me to have a foot in the door where a lot of other people may not have. I’m very grateful and aware of this privilege I've entered into the field with. Finances on the other hand were few and far between. Which led me to working the front of house in many establishments due to the need to make money that was livable rather than work in a kitchen where I probably would have literally sharpened my skills faster.
Where do you focus your attention day-to-day regarding your business? Right now, I'm in the deep end of working with vendors and different POS, account, and payroll companies to try and set up these operational systems in order to have clarity of how we will be rolling out our vision and business in an efficient and ideally profitable manner. In addition and mostly on weekends have started the process of recipe development and distilling our initial menu ideas into a more realistic starting menu for this summer.
What are key characteristics you look for in applicants when hiring? This being my first time hiring people for my own project, I look for enthusiasm for food, honesty, and a level of pride in themselves. I think these traits can directly translate into someone who wants to learn, is humble and cares about quality for themselves and the team/business as a whole. Cannot forget, a sense of humor, I was always light hearted and fun on the floor yet always wanted to be the best at what I did, this really allowed me to connect deeply and professionally with guests and my coworkers too.
What change do you want to see in our industry? I would love to see a bigger push toward diversity in positions of power in the industry, not just POC, but women, and the Trans community as well are still fighting an uphill battle toward gaining the same visibility as the dominant white male chef that we have all grown all to accustomed to. I would love to see the government stepping up to support small businesses by incentivizing and rewarding them the same way farmers are incentivized and rewarded for growing monocultures of corn and soy but for working with small farms and lowering food miles when looking into vendors. I hope we all can continue to learn about what's right in front of us/in our backyard before we travel around the world to our inspirations, there is so much value in both yet the former is often forgotten about.