CHEF JOSÉ MENDÍN
Founding Partner/Culinary Director
Born amidst heavy food culture to foodie parents, and a great-grandmother who was a cooking instructor may have paved the way for The Pubbelly Restaurant Group’s Founding Partner and Culinary Director, Jose Mendin. However, it wasn’t until Mendin went off to college and needed to prepare his own meals that he actually picked up a pan and realized his adoration for cooking.
“My mom was master of her domain and so never let us cook at home,” explains Mendin. “It was only when I lived on my own that I started to cook. The reaction I received from people enjoying my food was so gratifying that I was immediately hooked.”
For most losing a collegiate volleyball scholarship would be disappointing, but for Mendin it was life changing; it afforded him the opportunity leave his home of Puerto Rico and pursue his new found love for cooking at Johnson & Wales University in Miami (graduated 2001). While his initial kitchen experiences might be buried under a wealth of accomplishments, Mendin attests that it was these first experiences that shaped the founding principles of his approach to food. Today, they can be seen adorning the menus of his successful Pubbelly (2010) and Pubbelly Sushi (2011) restaurants.
Mendin was part of the opening team of Nobu Miami and later went on to Nobu London in Hyde Park. Here, Asian influences were melded with European technique, a perfect training tool for when he would later take the position as Chef de Cuisine of SUSHISAMBA Miami Beach (2004) – a hybrid concept that artfully fused the flavors of Japan, Brazil and Peru.
Under his direction the SUSHISAMBA brand flourished and within two years he would be appointed to Assistant Corporate Chef responsible for overseeing all of their stateside locations including opening their largest project, SUSHISAMBA Las Vegas (2008) at the Palazzo to award-winning notoriety.
While recognizable US-concepts decorated Mendin’s resume, his pursuit to learn in an international kitchen was probably what he finds most memorable in his culinary training. Stages in Spain working under chefs like Jesus Ramiro and Juan Pablo Felipe were creative learning processes that departed from his well-honed skill of preparing of-the-moment cuisine. He worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, cooked for the prince of Spain, and learned how to revitalize ancient recipes maintaining the integrity of a dish’s roots, while infusing it with the slightest modern touches.
Upon returning, Mendin was able to immediately translate his techniques stateside, at first as part of the opening team of Mosaico (2003) alongside celebrated La Broche chef, Gonzalo Juardo, and later at Mercadito when he opened their Chicago and Miami outposts. Though for Mendin, most meaningful was applying what he learned in Spain to help construct the menu of Barceloneta (2011) a Spanish tapas restaurant that marked the third restaurant concept under The Pubbelly Restaurant Group.
Today, Mendin is a hometown hero both in Miami and San Juan. Making his cities proud, he – alongside his business partners Andreas Schreiner and Sergio Navarro – has taken more than six culinary concepts to critical acclaim (Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, Barceloneta, Macchialina, PB Steak, and recently opened L’echon Brasserie). He has been a recognized semi-finalist of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef South awards in 2011, 2012 and 2013, has received recognition from publications like Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Departures and The Cooking Channel and is one of the key players in revitalizing the now bustling Sunset Harbor neighborhood.
Opportunities are endless, and the brands expanding empire has exciting new projects on the horizon for Mendin including additional concepts in South Florida and Mexico as well as talks of producing branded food products and a cookbook.
When Mendin is not in the kitchen, you might find him playing volleyball – as he is modestly puts it, “there are no hard feelings.”