The Pubbelly Group’s Founding Partner and Chef, Jose Mendin, was born into a 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 for 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.”
With a collegiate volleyball scholarship just out of reach, it afforded him the opportunity to leave his home in Puerto Rico and pursue something new, and so he enrolled in cooking school at Johnson & Wales University in Miami, graduating in 2001.
Mendin’s passion for food and learning has carried him gracefully into a successful career. He was part of the opening team at Nobu, Miami and later Nobu, London, and used these foundational Asian influences to parlay the opportunity into a job at SUSHISAMBA Miami. After two years, he was appointed to Assistant Corporate Chef, overseeing all of the brands U.S. locations, which included the 2008 opening of the award-winning SUSHISAMBA, Las Vegas at the Palazzo.
While recognizable U.S. concepts like Mosaico adorn Mendin’s resume, his pursuit to learn in an international kitchen is perhaps what he regards as 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, by maintaining the integrity of a dish’s roots and infusing it with modern touches.
Today, Mendin is a hometown hero in both Miami and San Juan, making both of his cities proud. Alongside his business partners Sergio Navarro, Andreas Schreiner and Juan Fernando Ayora, he has taken numerous culinary concepts to critical acclaim, including: Pubbelly (now Pubbelly Noodle Bar), Pubbelly Sushi, Barceloneta, Macchialina, PB Steak and L’echon Brasserie. Chef Mendin has been a recognized semi-finalist of the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef South” for five consecutive years from 2012-2016 and has received national acknowledgements from Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Departures Serious Eats, Departures and The Cooking Channel, among many others.
The Pubbelly Group’s collection of restaurants and bars continue to expand on both a national and international scale, and now includes: Pubbelly Noddle Bar, Pubbelly Sushi (American Airlines Arena, Brickell City Centre, Casa de Campo and Miami Beach), Food Republic (aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Escape), Pubbelly Station, Pawn Broker, Pubbelly Sushi Market, Baja Bao and their latest concept in Mendin’s hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico, named PB Ysla.
The group’s rooftop bar, Pawn Broker, was awarded the accolade of “Bar of the Year” by Eater Miami, and also received a culinary nod from Bloomberg News. And 2016 saw the group venture into the digital world with a digital cook book featuring a collection of Chef Mendin’s dishes, aptly named Food Republic by Jose Mendin, a collaboration with Norwegian Cruise Line.
When Mendin is not in the kitchen, you’ll 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.