The Pubbelly Restaurant Group’s Founding Partner and Chef Jose Mendin was born into heavy food culture – the child of “food enthusiast” parents and a great-grandmother who was a cooking instructor. Though it wasn’t until Mendin went off to college and needed to prepare his own meals that he realized his adoration was not just for food, but also cooking.
“My mom was master of her domain and so she 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.”
Losing a collegiate volleyball scholarship could be disappointing for some, but for Mendin it was life changing; it afforded him the opportunity leave his home in Puerto Rico and pursue something new. He enrolled in cooking school at Johnson & Wales University and moved to Miami (graduated 2001).
Mendin’s passion for food and learning has carried him gracefully into a successful career. He was part of the opening team of Nobu Miami and later Nobu London in Hyde Park and used these foundational Asian influences to parlay the opportunity into a job as Chef de Cuisine of SUSHISAMBA Miami Beach (2004). Under his direction, the SUSHISAMBA brand flourished and within two years Mendin was appointed to Assistant Corporate Chef where he was responsible for overseeing all of their stateside locations including opening SUSHISAMBA Las Vegas (2008) at the Palazzo to award-winning notoriety.
While recognizable US-concepts like Mosaico – which he opened alongside celebrated La Broche chef, Gonzalo Juardo – adorn Mendin’s resume, his pursuit to learn in an international kitchen was probably what he finds most influential in his culinary training. Stages in Spain, working under chefs like Jesus Ramiro and Juan Pablo Felipe, were creative processes that forced him out of his comfort zone and later played a role in the menu development at Mercadito, as opening chef of their Chicago and Miami outposts. While in Spain, 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.
Today, Mendin is a hometown hero both in Miami and San Juan. Making both his cities proud, he – alongside his business partners Andreas Schreiner and Sergio Navarro – has taken numerous culinary concepts to critical acclaim (Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, Barceloneta, Macchialina, PB Steak, L’echon Brasserie). He has been a recognized semi-finalist of the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef South” for five consecutive years (2011-2015) and has received national acknowledgements from Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Departures and The Cooking Channel among many others.
The brands growing group empire continues to expand with the recent launch of Food Republic, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Escape (launched November 2015); Pubbelly Sushi in Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic, which marked their first international expansion (opened December 2015); and their first concept in Miami’s mainland, Pubbelly Station, a New American eatery that is complemented by their first ever venture into spirits with a breathtaking rooftop bar, Pawn Broker (opened April 2016).
When Mendin is not in the kitchen, you might find him spending time with his fiancé Ali and his two sons, Ian and Noah. He enjoys the sun and sand of Miami and still has the occasional “itch” for a good game of volleyball.
Later this fall, Mendin will launch a digital cookbook exclusively for Norwegian Cruise Line and along with his partners will open Pubbelly Sushi in Brickell City Centre.