Mario Pagan

Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Restaurant(s): The LAUREL Nuevo Caribe Kitchen Art Bar, SAGE Steak Loft
Position: Executive Chef / Owner
Cuisine focus: Modern Puerto Rican (LAUREL) / Criollo Steak House (SAGE)
Notable Awards: Eight Golden Fork Awards in Puerto Rico, Best Museum Restaurant by Food & Wine and Food Republic for The LAUREL Nuevo Caribe Kitchen Art Bar.

Mario Pagan‘s passion for cooking began while watching his mother and grandmothers prepare Caribbean influenced meals in his childhood. In 1994, while in his second year of Architectural school in Miami, he decided to pursue his passion for the culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University.   He then went on to hone his skills in the kitchens of known chefs such as Carmen Gonzalez, Pascal Oudin, and Norman Van Aken. Mario’s first and last experiences were under Alfredo Ayala, Mario’s mentor and founder of Chayote in San Juan. Since then, Mario has always been dedicated to introducing Puerto Rican-Caribbean influenced cuisine to the rest of the world.   Now locally and internationally recognized as one of Puerto Rico’s top chefs, Mario Pagan is the owner of two of the finest restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico: The Laurel Nuevo Caribe Kitchen Art Bar located at the Puerto Rico Museum of Art and the newly opened Sage Steak Loft at Olive Boutique Hotel in Condado.   Pagan has been lauded in an array of publications such as Food and Wine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Esquire Magazine, and Travel and Leisure. In 2014, Pagan was honored as a guest chef to cook at the James Beard House. He has also co-authored two books on Caribbean Cuisine and is the host of “Sabores de Ensueño” and “Boricuas,” two cooking shows on Utilísima Fox Latino Network.

1. What’s your regular comfort meal?

Any juicy burger with lots of cheese.

2. Tell us about one Kitchen Disaster story.

As a kid, I used to walk on the kitchen counter top and accidentally put one foot in a pot full of “asopao” (rice soup).  I learned my kitchen safety lesson early on.

3. Do you have any kitchen battle scars?

Caramel burn on my hand, oil drops on my wrist, couple of cuts here and there.

4. If your last day was tomorrow, what would be your last meal?

“Tocino” Rice (pork belly), fried egg, baby bananas, avocado.

5. Who is and what makes your favorite knife?

Global cleavers.

6. Finish this sentence:

If I wasn’t a Chef, I would be a Formula 1 race car driver because it’s my favorite sport.

7.  After a long work day, what do you do to decompress?

Cold beer or a massage.

8.  What do you wish you had more time to do?

Going out on my boat on the weekends.

9. Besides cookings, do you have any other talents?


10.  What is your culinary “best case” scenario?

Packed house!
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Learn more about Chef Mario Pagan on his Chef’s Roll profile here.
Chef Mario Pagan will be participating at Puerto Rico Meets NYC in October 2015.  Learn more about the event by clicking on the image below.