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June 6, 7:00 P.M. Dinner: The Pride of Puerto Rico Presented by Capital One

June 06, 2024 07:00 PM

Featuring James Beard Best Chef: South Award–Winning Chef Natalia Vallejo, Executive Chef Jonathan Meléndez, Executive Pastry Chef Orlando Soto , Head Sommelier Dorian Gonzalez Vega, and Bar Manager Lelani Jacobs

25 11th Ave, New York, NY 10011, USA

On Sunday, June 9, New York City hosts the 67th National Puerto Rican Day Parade, a tradition considered the largest gathering of cultural pride in the United States. In advance of the revelry, Natalia Vallejo of San Juan’s Cocina al Fondo, the first Puerto Rican–based chef to win the James Beard Award for Best Chef South, will headline a dinner showcasing an all-star chef team; executive chef Jonathan Meléndez (Casa Mono), executive pastry chef Orlando Soto (Le Bernardin), head sommelier Dorian Gonzalez Vega, and bar manager Lelani Jacobs (Gramercy Tavern)—all from restaurants honored on the New York Times “100 Best Restaurants in New York City.” United in their desire to share their culinary identity in the dishes they create, this evening will shine a spotlight on their Puerto Rican heritage channeled through their food.

Dining Table $185 | Internal Chefs Counter $200 | External Chefs Counter $160 

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Hors D’Oeuvre 

Atún con Alcapurria, Vinagre de Yuca, Zanahoria, y Ají Dulce 
Tuna with Alcapurria Fritter, Yuca Vinegar, Carrots, and Sweet Chile Peppers 

Mofongo de Yuca con Ceviche de Setas, Calabacín, y Cilantro 
Yuca Mofongo with Mushroom Ceviche, Zucchini, and Cilantro 

Arepa de Maíz con Carrucho y Vinagreta 
Corn Arepa with Conch Meat and Vinaigrette
Contains shellfish 

Dinner

Ensalada de Aguacate con Tomates Heirloom, Pork Belly, Guineos en Escabeche, y Verdolaga 
Avocado Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Pork Belly, Green Banana Salad, and Purslane 

Langostinos and Filete de Dorada con Zanahorias, Cúrcuma, Recao, Arroz Jazmín, Plátano Maduro, y Ensalada Verde 
Shrimp and Mahi-Mahi Fillet with Carrots, Turmeric, Culantro, Jasmine Rice, Plantains, and Green Salad
Contains shellfish

Pimiento de Piquillo con Fricasé de Conejo, Habichuelas Marinadas, y Arugula
Piquillo Pepper with Rabbit Fricassée, Marinated Beans, and Arugula 

Dessert

Piragua de Parcha  
Passion Fruit Shaved Ice
Vegan 

Besitos de Coco y Café 
Coconut and Coffee Macaroons

Variedad de Postres 
Assorted Petit Fours

Wines will be paired with each course and reflect the diversity and melting pot that is Puerto Rico. Bottles will be sourced from around the world, but mainly from Spain.


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About Natalia Vallejo: 
Natalia Vallejo is an award-winning Puerto Rican chef who has worked in prominent restaurants all over the world. She has immersed herself in programs and courses studying everything from oenology and sensory analysis, to nutrition, artisan baking, molecular cooking, and wine pairing to name a few. She spent time researching the ancestral food of the Mapuche community in Chile, began her studies in Puerto Rico in Nutrition and Dietetics, and then went to Argentina to continue her studies at the renowned Gato Dumas and Mausi Sebess. With experience working in kitchens all over Latin America and South America—from Chile to Argentina, Spain, and Puerto Rico—Vallejo has spent the better part of two decades developing and researching unique flavor profiles and the culinary arts through her work and travels. In 2019 Vallejo opened restaurant Cocina al Fondo, in the hip neighborhood of Santurce in Puerto Rico.
An instant success, the restaurant offers a seasonal, ever-evolving menu that incorporates locally sourced ingredients with integrity. Vallejo’s entire ethos is situated in uplifting the island and its people through their stomachs, a renewed sense of independence, and pride—she is shining a light on the self-sustaining philosophy behind her restaurant by reclaiming the intricacies of Puerto Rican cuisine while also infusing it with a global flavor. Just one year after opening, Vallejo was nominated for Best New Restaurant and Best Chef: South by the James Beard Foundation. In 2023, Natalia was nominated and won the Best Chef: South award, becoming the first Puerto Rican to ever take home a James Beard award. She has been featured in Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, New York Times, Eater, Bon Appétit, the BBC, Axios, NPR, USA Today, Broken Palate, Forbes, Lonny, Downtown magazine, and more.

Chef Natalia Vallejo’s residency is made possible in part by a generous gift by Herb Scannell to our Chef Performance Fund.

About Jonathan Meléndez:
Jonathan Meléndez, a native of Cayey, Puerto Rico, is the executive chef at Casa Mono and Bar Jamón in New York City. His passion for cooking began in the classrooms of the Hotel School of San Juan, which allowed him to start his career at the renowned Budatai restaurant, under the tutelage of chef Roberto Treviño.
In search of new experiences, Jonathan moved to New York in 2014, where he obtained a position as a line cook at Casa Mono, a well-known Spanish restaurant with a Michelin star. However, he returned to Puerto Rico to start a family. Unfortunately, his plans were interrupted by the devastating Hurricane Maria, which forced him to make the difficult decision to return to New York City. Determined to continue his culinary journey, he sought new challenges and worked in well-known restaurants such as La Sirena and Momofuku. These experiences significantly influenced his cooking style, merging his Puerto Rican roots with international flavors.
In 2020, Jonathan had the opportunity to rejoin the Casa Mono team, this time as sous chef. His dedication and talent did not go unnoticed and in 2021 he was promoted to the position of executive chef. Under his leadership, Casa Mono gained its 13th Michelin star, a testimony to Jonathan's culinary dexterity and innovative approach to the kitchen.
Periodically Jonathan returns to Puerto Rico, with a fresh perspective and a renewed mission, using the local products that the island has to offer and sharing them with his diners.  

About Orlando Soto: 
Chef Orlando Soto is the executive pastry chef at Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert’s three-Michelin-starred French seafood restaurant in Midtown. After graduating from the University of Puerto Rico with an engineering degree, Soto decided to fully pursue his passion for pastry, moving to New York to enroll in the Institute of Culinary Education. He has since honed his expertise in Michelin-starred kitchens such as Daniel, Cafe Boulud, Per Se, and Gunter Seeger. In the kitchen, he combines his pastry knowledge with his engineering background, respecting classic pastry techniques while employing new methods to create whimsical desserts rooted in the fundamentals.

Dorian Gonzalez Vega:
Gramercy Tavern’s head sommelier, Dorian Gonzalez Vega was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where she began her career in the hospitality industry. In the summer of 2018, Dorian moved to New York and in 2019, joined the John Fraser Restaurant group to embark on her journey as a sommelier. Over the last five years, she has worked her way through fine dining restaurants across New York, from opening a restaurant in Long Island during the pandemic to working at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare. She worked her way up at Gramercy Tavern to become head sommelier and is currently on track to earn her advanced certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers and getting one step closer to her goal of becoming the first Puerto Rican woman to become a Master Sommelier.  

Leilani Jacobs:
Coraliz Leilani Jacobs is a Puerto Rican-American mixologist. She grew up in Hawaii before returning to her parents' native island of Puerto Rico, where she was introduced to hospitality through her grandmother Irene, the chef/owner of Comidas Criollas. Leilani has lived and worked around the country including Honolulu, Las Piedras, Miami, Pittsburgh, and now New York City. She joined the beverage leadership team at Gramercy Tavern as the bar manager in the fall of 2023. She brings her life experiences and exposure to different cultures and flavors to influence her cocktail creation, while still honoring her roots.


Tickets to events held at Platform at Pier 57 by the James Beard Foundation cover the cost of food, education and a unique dining experience. Meals are prepared by culinary masters from all regions of the United States and around the world. Unless otherwise stated, alcoholic beverages are provided on a complimentary basis and are not included in the ticket price.

James Beard Foundation events permit guests age 21 years and older to attend events where alcoholic beverages are served.

Event Policy

Reservation Policy:

All reservations are non-refundable and must be made in advance. Should the event be cancelled due to any unforeseen circumstances, including COVID-19, JBF will offer a range of options, including ticket exchanges, the option to donate tickets, or a full refund. For more information, contact platformbyjbf@jamesbeard.org.

Alcohol Disclaimer:

James Beard Foundation events permit guests age 21 years and older to attend events where alcoholic beverages are served. 

Dietary/Food Restrictions Policy:

Events at Platform by JBF are special one-night-only menus and we do not offer a la carte menus. If you have serious food allergies, we will work with the visiting chef team to do our best to accommodate but cannot guarantee that alternate options will be available for every course.

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