Meet Chef Julio Diaz

My passion for cooking was ignited when I was just a child. It was my grandmother who first started me on a journey that would mold the person I am today. She began cooking with me at a young age. I remember we started with a simple dish of rice, beans and chicken. Over time, she worked with me to help me understand how much happiness our efforts could bring to people. This bond we shared and the time we spent together inflamed my passion for cooking. It brought me closer to her and gave me great joy in the process. Soon after, I was cooking Arroz Con Gandules like a master. I began seamlessly blending flavors and mastering styles from Europe, Spain, Africa and Tainos into a variety of dishes that all my friends and family could enjoy. I was so grateful to my grandmother for inspiring me. I knew then that food would be my art and my calling in life.

As I got older, before I could fully explore my passion for cooking, I first had to work for the family business. My father expected me to be an accountant and run his business just as he had run it. This was certainly not my plan. Ironically, we owned a restaurant, and I found myself in the kitchen far more often than behind a desk. Unfortunately, my plans to choose my own destiny were ignored. My father insisted that I carry on working with numbers. So, I secretly applied to The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Pennsylvania. When he discovered that I had been accepted, my father gave me two options: I could remain in his business as an accountant or leave and never come back. It was a difficult gamble to make, but I decided to grab hold of my own future and went off to school.

After two years in Pennsylvania, I relocated to France to complete my studies. Europe was an entirely new world for me, and I was hungry to take in and master everything it could offer. I lived in Paris and studied at the Paris National Culinary School. It was a struggle for a while, as the instructors there would not speak to me in anything other than French. So, I made every effort to learn and understand not only what they were saying, but how they were saying it. I suddenly became a student of food and a student of language. After Paris, I moved to Dijon to refine the techniques I had learned. At this point, my schooling was complete. From there I took up an unpaid apprenticeship at Restaurant Les Berceaux in Champagne, France. This was a wonderful time in my life full of experiences that I will remember forever.

 

With my schooling and internships complete, I returned to the U.S. and began my professional career at the Bistro Romano in Philadelphia as a sous chef. It was so very exciting to finally put my hard-earned skills to work in a paid position. After spending so much time on my own, I eventually became homesick and eager to reconnect with my family. This led me back to Puerto Rico. It was there that I had the honor to open the Conquistador Hotel Puerto Rico as a sous chef. Now I could finally show my family how excellent I had become as a culinary artist. After a short time, my father agreed that my gamble to pursue my passion had paid off, a point which was reinforced after I earned myself the promotion to executive chef at The Sands Hotel and Casino. I had finally gotten the validation from him I had always wanted.

I became an indispensable asset to the restaurant, bringing my exquisite palate and creativity as elite executive chef. From there I shared my talents and my passion with the Islands Restaurant in the Rincon Beach Resort in Puerto Rico, the Gaylord Palms and Peabody Hotel in Orlando, the DoubleTree Rocky Point in Tampa, the Sandcastle Lido Beach and now the Embassy Suites by Hilton Sarasota.

My life has been an incredible journey. I have traveled through Europe, America and the Caribbean. All my struggles have become distant memories. I have a loving wife and family. Finally, I can indulge in my passion every day. It has been such a joy to share my talents with everyone I have come across, and I am delighted whenever I find myself in the kitchen. I want to thank my grandmother for igniting this fire within me. It is because of her that I am the Chef and the artist I am today.

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