Background Born in Puerto Rico. Trained at Johnson & Wales University in Norfolk, Virginia. Worked at The Frog and the Redneck in Richmond, Virginia, and The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, in Atlanta.
How he got into cooking "There weren't always waves to surf in Virginia Beach, where I grew up, so I needed something else to do."
First food memory Barbecued wild pig, grilled catfish and venison sausage at his uncle's ranch in Texas, age eight.
Mentors Chefs Jimmy Sneed and Guenther Seeger.
Menu bomb "I made an awesome rabbit terrine. I was loving it, but I couldn't give it away."
What he'd be if he weren't a chef An oceanographer.
Favorite cookbook Jacques Pépin's La Technique.
Favorite place to eat Soto in Atlanta.
Dish he could eat every day Mashed potatoes.
Trend he's most tired of "People trying to do the Asian thingit's like a contagious disease. There should be a law."
Favorite kitchen tool A Vita-Mix blender."The best. It will puree rocks."
Food vices Barbecue ("In Richmond, that's a vice") and Burger King.
Recipe tip When sautéeing onions or shallots, add a pinch of salt first; it helps release their juices and prevents burning.
Won Best New Chef at: Acacia
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.