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Chefs in the City with Hector Santiago | Arts & Culture

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Chefs in the City with Hector Santiago
Chefs in the City with Hector Santiago


Meet Chef Hector Santiago from Pura Vida and Bravo TV's Top Chef on November 17th from 6-8pm at Bloomingdale's Lenox Square (Home Store) as he presents tapas selected by restaurant diners as favorites. Plus, guests will enjoy a spanish wine tasting, maragritas from Sinless Cocktails, shopping specials, fabulous door prizes and more!  

Hector Santiago's passion for cooking began while attending the University of Puerto Rico and continues to grow along with his new culinary ventures. Bringing the flavors of his native Puerto Rico to Atlantans, Santiago has won a wealth of accolades for the inspired tapas plates at his restaurant Pura Vida , a saying in Costa Rica meaning "life is great". 


Last year he expanded his offerings with the foodie favorite Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop, where guests indulge in hand crafted, made to order sandwiches using local meats and house made breads and quench their thirst with house made lemonade and agua fresca. Many recognize him from his creative dishes from his participation on Top Chef in 2009 and his appearances on the Top Chef Live Tour, where he has showcased his Latin dishes across the country.


Recently, Chef Santiago took a few minutes to share some tasty tidbits on his culinary background with  Grape Girl Jennifer Dunaway and what we can anticipate to see from him in the future.


Q. What are the Top 10 items you'd recommend purchasing for our "little brown bags"?

A. Microplane, strainer (or multiple strainers), Japanese style chef's knife, hand blender, a good sauté pan that can stand the heat of the oven, high heat rubber spatula, wooden spoons, high speed blender and an ice cream machine.


Q. Thanksgiving is around the corner.  What dishes are we likely to find on your family's table on this day practically devoted to food?

A. Our Thanksgiving at home is fairly traditional, but with some Latin twists:  Turkey with some type of pork added (perhaps wrapped in pig skin). I'm still working on that one, along with sweet potato casserole, chocolate pecan pie and arroz con dulce (coconut rice pudding) with pumpkin, to name a few. 


Q. What are the staples we'll find in your kitchen at home?
A. Numerous kinds of salts, sofrito (a blend of aromatics often used in Spanish cuisine), adobos (dry spice mixes) 


Q. Are there any items/ingredients that we'll never see in your kitchen?

A. Artificial sweeteners 


Q. What first inspired you to make a career out of making amazing meals for others?  

A. I was always good at cooking, and working with my hands.  I worked in restaurants in high school and college, including Blimpies and Ponderosa, but my first job in a fine dining restaurant set the stage for my career.  Giovanna Huyke, my chef, was like the Alice Waters of Puerto Rico.  She taught me that we could make amazing food out of our local ingredients, and inspired me to attend the Culinary Institute of America. 


Q. For our home cooks that are looking for a way to add some Latin flavor to their cuisine, what dishes or ingredients should they incorporate into their repertoire?
A. The basics of all Latin cooking include sofrito (a mix of garlic, onions and peppers) and adobos (spice mixes that are relevant to specific countries).  We make our own adobos at Pura Vida and sell them packaged if you don't want to make your own.


Q. Do you have a particularly memorable or unique chef experience?

A. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to cook for a press luncheon with my mentor, Giovanna, along with her mentor, Augusto Shriver, to promote a culinary event called Saborea, that takes place in Puerto Rico.  It was awesome to have our three generations cooking together in my kitchen at Pura Vida.


Q. You continue to bring unique flavors to the Atlanta culinary scene with new ventures such as Super Pan.  Do you have plans for new destinations where we can experience your dishes?

A. We are part of a bid at the Atlanta Airport , so you may see Super Pan, El Burro Pollo Burritos, and/or Pura Vida in the airport next year.


Q. What are some of your favorite wine pairings or wine regions?

A. My favorite regions are Argentina & Chile, as well as Spain.  I like to pair Malbecs with big red meats, Torrontes with ceviches. 

 Q. Any must haves for a Latino lunch or spicy supper?
A.  I love Spanish dry sherry with fried foods and salty snacks (like olives).  For spicy food a great Malbec works for heavier foods, and a Riesling or Gewürztraminer works with lighter food.  You can easily find Riesling from Chile and Gewürztraminer from Spain. 


Q. What guest(s) would you be most excited to create a meal?

 A. Anyone that appreciates Latin flavors and is willing to try new things. 



Remember when you purchase a ticket you are helping a Open Hand Atlanta, a wonderful non-profit organization that helps people prevent or better manage chronic disease through Comprehensive Nutrition Care™, which combines home-delivered meals and nutrition education as a means to reinforce the connection between informed food choices and improved quality of life.


 For chef bio and more information, please visit: www.atlantachefs.eventbrite.com

Enter the code TAPAS for a $5 discount (code valid until Nov 14).  Tickets are available at www.atlantachefs.eventbrite.com

For a chance to win a pair of tickets please visit http://www.thebluebirdpatch.com/2011/11/chefs-in-city-with-hector-santiago.html