Name: Juan José Cuevas
Position: Executive Chef
Restaurant: 1919 Restaurant
Awards: Chef de l’Avenir, 2 michelin star
About Chef Cuevas:
An honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Juan José Cuevas commenced his culinary career in 1995 at the Michelin three-star restaurant Arkelare in San Sebastián, Spain. He returned stateside to work at The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco as poissonnier, entremetier, and saucier under the internationally renowned Chef Sylvain Portay then advanced to the position of Chef de Partie under Tracy Jardin at the celebrated Jardinière Restaurant.
After a brief externship in Barcelona, staging at the Michelin three-star restaurant El Raco de Can Fabes under Chef Santi Santamaria, Cuevas returned to New York City where he joined legendary Chef Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in New York City— as chef saucier under Didier Elena. He continued his swift culinary ascent: serving as Sous-Chef-de Cuisine under Christian Delouvrier at Lespinasse. During his two-year tenure, the restaurant received the city’s highest culinary accolade—a four-star rating from The New York Times.
Subsequently, Chef Cuevas joined creative forces with Chef Dan Barber at the iconic Blue Hill Restaurant at Stone Farms where the pairing of Cuevas’ culinary ingenuity and Barber’s passion for farm-to-table locavorism earned the duo widespread international recognition. During their four-year collaboration, Blue Hill was awarded a three-star rating by The New York Times —in addition to receiving a Michelin star.
In 2007, Juan José joined Chef Ed Brown as his Chef-de-Cuisine at Restaurant 81. The high-end eatery, in the heart of Manhattan, was awarded a Michelin star during its very first year of operation.
Subsequently, Cuevas served as Executive Chef at the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, New Jersey: landing a three-star rating from The New York Times and the AAA Four-Diamond Award in 2010.
Today Chef Juan José Cuevas triumphantly returns to Puerto Rico as Executive Chef at 1919: the flagship restaurant at the new Condado Vanderbilt Hotel.
“ It is a chef’s duty to think local. Something as seemingly simple as basil can —and should— be sourced locally. Not only does it impart a fresher, superior flavor to the dish—it helps jumpstart the local economy.” —Chef Juan José Cuevas.
Did you go to culinary school? If so, where?
Yes. Culinary Institute of America
What restaurants have you worked at?
Union Square Café, The Dining Room at Ritz-Carlton SF, Jardiniere at SF, Alain Ducasse at Essex House NYC, Lespinasse Restaurant at St Regis Hotel, NYC, Can Fabes at Sant Celoni, Akelare at San Sebastian.
What was your first job in food?
Union Square Café, NYC
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What’s your favorite thing about being a chef?
Passion, energy, Challenges, No day is like yesterday. Making people happy, teaching.
Did you have an “aha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a chef?
Back when I was in College studying accounting. I did a project of a star up restaurant and fall in love with everything in this industry.
What is the best advice you ever got?
Never stop; you should always try to achieve better.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
What’s your favorite ingredient?
Olive oil, eggplant, fennel
What ingredient turns you off the most?
What’s your favorite tool in the kitchen?
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not cooking?
Run, beach, spending time with my family
What would you like to do before you get too old to do it?
I don’t know, never wait to do what you want.
Tell us a deep dark secret (doesn’t have to be food related).
How do you deal with the stress?
Tell us a funny story from the kitchen
When a move to USA a school Chef ask to shape something as a hockey puck; I look at him a simply say: don’t know anything about hockey
Who would you like to meet?
Anyone who I can learn something. I been very lucky with the people I had meet.
Who would you like to cook for?
On the same table: My daughter, Sylvain Portay, Alain Ducasse, one of my local farmers.
What was the hardest thing for you to learn? Or is there something you just can’t get right?
To balance life, to take care of myself
Is there some little something you do for your family to make up for the time you’re not with them?
I learn to balance life, there is time for everything and when I am with them is with them.
How did becoming a chef change your life, your direction?
It taught me to look everything as a whole…a clear picture of my surrounding.