Learning at his grandmother's side while watching her make traditional Puerto Rican dishes, eating his aunt's perfect crispy fried chicken, going grocery shopping with his mom....so much went into the the preparation and planning of a family meal. The result of sitting together to eat and enjoy made it all worth it.
Early on, these experiences instilled a passion for expressive flavors in Chef JJ as he began to follow the rhythm of the seasons. From home hearth to classical training, Chef JJ made the move to the Culinary Institute of America, giving a technical backbone to a well-laid foundation of food love.
He went on to hone his skills in some of New York’s most esteemed and demanding kitchens: Centro Vinoteca, Jane, and Tribeca Grill among them. Constantly in search of new flavors, Chef JJ also spent time in Ghana, studying West African cuisine and cooking at Villa Monticello, the country's premier boutique hotel. To put his skills to the ultimate test, he entered the food competition on Rocco DiSpirito's Dinner Party in 2011 and won the first episode.
Now Chef JJ is using his love of the flavors of the African diaspora and introducing them to new palates. Pulling from the Caribbean flavors he grew up with and combining them with African and Asian tastes acquired from his travels, The first Afro-Asian-American restaurant, The Cecil was so celebrated it was named Esquire's pick for the Best New Restaurant in America in 2014. The Cecil and Minton's recently merged, and Chef JJ's Afro-Asian-American flavors can now be found on the menu at Minton's.