José Santaella

Chef Jose Santaella
Photo courtesy of Santaella

Restaurant: Santaella (Read a review)

Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Why He's Amazing: Because after years of working with some of the world's best European and American chefs, he's redefining cocina criolla—the cooking of his home, Puerto Rico.

Culinary School: Self-taught

background: Le Bernardin New York City); Chez Michel, Gary Danko (/sites/default/files/an Francisco)

Quintessential Dish: Morcilla (blood sausage) curlers (rulos), served with spicy Puerto Rican mayonnaise

Best Known As: The caterer to the Who's Who of Puerto Rican society.

Santaella's Design: Edison lightbulbs hanging over dark wooden tables with no tablecloths. "I call it the Momofuku approach," he says, referring to David Chang's minimalist restaurants in New York City.

On Cooking: "My style is between classic and modern—modern Caribbean. [It's] a fusion of everything. But always we have good tostones [twice-fried green plantains]."

Next Project: His cookbook, Cocina Tropical: The Classic and Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico, is scheduled for release in fall 2014.