The restaurant can be found along the bustling streets of Santurce surrounded by markets. How did the neighborhood play a role in the restaurant and the menu?
A lot of my produce comes directly through the market, it’s truly what makes the menu. I put it on the chalkboard and it changes daily. It’s a mix of what I can find in the market and what I’m feeling – what fruits and produce and protein is fresh and my emotions, if it’s raining, if I’m happy, if I’m sad, it all goes into the menu.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Its criollo because I do have a lot of plates with that base: tropical, tons of acid, tons of lime, tart and sweet fruits. But I also like to play around. If some one calls me and says ‘I have beautiful king salmon’, I say ‘Dude, FedEx that to me right now!’ I don’t like to stay in one corner. We try not to mess it with ingredients too much, my style is about the ingredients and my inspiration is my surroundings and feelings.
You were recently voted one of Food & Wine Best News Chefs and you are a James Beard semifinalist. How do honors like that inspire you?
It’s huge, it’s funny because I’m always pushing. I’m a happy person but I’m never really happy with what I’m cooking. I’m always pushing, pushing, pushing for food to get better. With all these awards, I just need to push even more. It’s such a big thing, it’s a whirlwind. It’s the first time in Puerto Rico, opening that door, I’m extremely happy about it.
What do you want people to know about Puerto Rican cuisine?
I focus on my food and my drinks and I focus on having a good time. The restaurant is lively, the music is loud, the people are loud, people are having a good time. I hope guests remember to relax, that they know they can sit back and have fun. I hope the food is ingredient driven, fresh, and embodies the island’s location. We’re in the Caribbean, there’s a laid back feeling, and we’re enjoying it all.