Executive Chef Alex Ureña
With experience in kitchens all over the world including France, Spain, New York,
and The Bahamas, Chef Ureña brings his eclectic background and diverse flavor profiles to Rayuela to carry on the restaurant's tradition of creating "Freestyle Latino" food. When visiting, diners will experience a vivid array of Latino flavors on each and every plate, jumping from flavor to flavor and country to country with each bite. In essence, each forkful resembles a game of Rayuela, or hopscotch, with one's taste buds.
Most recently Ureña held the top Executive Chef Position at Mesa Grill in The Atlantis,
The Bahamas. His early career included tenures at several top NYC restaurants
including River Café, JoJo and a seven year stay at Bouley. Wanting to expand his
culinary knowledge, Ureña traveled to Europe in the late 90's, holding positions at
Michelin-Starred El Bulli in Spain and Michelin-Starred Le Clos de Cimes in France.
One of his most impactful experiences while working overseas was cooking alongside
famed Spanish chef Martin Berasategui at his namesake restaurant. It was here that
Ureña made a strong connection with Spanish cookery. When returning to the USA in
2000 Ureña took on the position of Chef de Cuisine and helped open Blue Hill where
they garnered "Two Stars" from the New York Times, and the next year would go on
to open Marseille (Mediterranean cuisine) where he garnered another "Two Star"
review. However, Ureña yearned to cook the cuisine he so came to love while in
Europe so in 2006 he ventured out on his own, opening his namesake restaurant Ureña, later becoming Pamplona in 2007. It was here where Chef Ureña would earn yet another "Two Star" review from The NewYork Times, this time as the only chef on the ticket, with critic Frank Bruni using words like "revelatory," "enchanted," and "dynamite" to describe his food. Now at Rayuela Ureña is returning to his Latino roots to bring his culture, the flavors from his youth and experience from cooking in European kitchens, to the dishes
of the Lower East Side. His dishes bring bold regional flavors from the cuisines of Latin America, creating dishes inspired by ingredients and cooking traditions of his native Dominican Republic as well as those from Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Cuba (just to mention a few).
"Rayuela is a rare gem offering brilliantly diverse and flavorful Latino cuisine and I attend to incorporate many of my family recipes and culinary techniques that I have learned from around the world and implement them here," explained Ureña. "This restaurant has always been, about passion," explains owner Hector Sanz. "We have really put our heart and soul into Rayuela and when I met Alex and tried his food, I could taste the passion and feel the soul. The marriage between Chef Alex and the energy that Rayuela exuberates is a match
made in heaven."
With a career standing over 13 years in New York City's hospitality industry, Hector Sanz has solidly established himself as a visionary and audacious restaurateur, and one who is soon to open his third and fourth restaurants in the culinary capital of the world. Partnered with Chef Maximo Tejada, Sanz opened Rayuela, his first restaurant, in 2007 in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Since then, Rayuela has been recognized as the headquarters of Tejada's Estilo Libre Latino Cuisine, respecting yet redefining contemporary Latin American and Spanish dishes. A native of Spain, Sanz emerged onto New York City's dining landscape with a unique vision: to create an intellectual connection between Latin American and Spanish culture and their cuisine. A lover of literature and film, Sanz has found in these arts an evident connection with the culinary world. Rayuela was inspired by Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar's 1963 experimental novel, while Macondo, his second restaurant opened in the summer of 2008, is named after the fictional town described in Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Located two blocks away from Rayuela, Macondo pays tribute to Latin American and Spanish street food, showcasing Latin American and Spanish tapas in a casual and chic atmosphere. After 4 successful years of operation, Rayuela and Macondo have gained the respect of New York's restaurant scene, as well as led the way to the creation of the boutique and up-and-coming Quimera Restaurant Group. In addition, his various culinary trips to Spain, the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa have inspired him to embark in two new projects: Barraca and Melibea. Soon to be opened in Manhattan's West Village, these two new members of Quimera Restaurant Group will pay tribute to Sanz' roots by featuring Chef Tejada's cocina de autor inspired by different regions of Spain. Sanz' incendiary vision emphasizes the merging and capitalizing of those Spanish-speaking cultures, as well as encompasses inspirations from 1920's Spain, accentuating Luis Bunuel, Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dali's trilogy. The skillfully designed wine list exemplifies the enthusiasm and expertise Sanz embodies, which is presently evident in Rayuela and Macondo's list, as Sanz personally selected more than 600 wines from the Spanish-speaking world. Sanz met Rayuela's Executive Chef Máximo Tejada in 2003 when they worked together at OLA—Sanz as the general manager and wine director—and was immediately drawn to his spiritual approach to cooking. Prior to Rayuela, Sanz was director of Lucy Latin Kitchen (which earned three stars from Crain's New York Business) and Pipa Tapas Restaurant in ABC Carpet & Home; general manager of Meritage; and assistant manager of Taperia Madrid. Throughout, Sanz remained a true mentor to his staff, continually educating them through daily meetings and guided or blind wine tastings and seminars. In 1999, after a stint studying industrial engineering and philosophy at Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Industriales (ETSII) in Madrid, Sanz left Spain for New York City, where he began his career in the restaurant industry. Sanz was born in the small town of Soria, just two hours from Madrid. The marriage of Hector Sanz' Spanish heritage to that of Dominican native Chef Maximo Tejada has staked a claim in all Latin territory. This unity is solidified by their shared motive grounded in the passion for the ever-transpiring cultures of Spain and Latin America, thereby, creating their philosophy of "one language, many flavors".
Paul Fernandez is a partner in Rayuela, a stylish new restaurant on the Lower East Side that is introducing Estilo Libre Latino (Freestyle Latino) cuisine, which respects yet redefines contemporary Latin American dishes, as well as Spanish tapas. Fernandez is an entrepreneur who brings close to 30 years of experience in the retail food and real estate industries to his investment role in the opening of Rayeula, which he hopes will represent Latin American cuisine in a new light. Fernandez met partners Hector Sanz and Chef Máximo Tejada in 2005 when the duo first approached him about Rayuela. “We were looking to create a new category in Latin American cuisine that was authentic and innovative at the same time. I immediately recognized a winning opportunity to work with Sanz and Chef Tejada, who are both talented, passionate and committed to this project,” said Fernandez. Rayuela is Fernandez’s first venture in the restaurant industry, but his own passion for high-quality food service and food retailing is reflected in his role as the sixth president of the New York Chapter of the National Supermarket Association, an advocacy group representing 350 independent supermarkets throughout the metro New York area. During his two-year term, which he completed in May 2006, he raised seed money to form an insurance company, N.S.A. Risk Retention Group. He continues to be an active member of the New York N.S.A. Chapter. Fernandez started out working in a deli in Little Italy, which he eventually bought from the owner. He left the business 10 years later to his brother and launched a successful career in the retail food industry. With hard work and a passion for food, he came to own a string of supermarkets including Union Market in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Met Foods in Gramercy Park and in Far Rockaway, Queens and a C-Town in the South Bronx, among others. Fernandez was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the U.S. at age 14. He studied at Baruch College. Fernandez is married and is the father of four young boys.
Bruni Bueno is the pastry chef at Rayuela, the stylish new restaurant on Manhattanís Lower East Side. Bueno contributes her delectable desserts to Rayuelaís Estilo Libre Latino (Freestyle Latino) menu, which respects tradition yet redefines contemporary Latin American and Spanish dishes. Signature examples include the Crema de Requeson, Spanish ricotta cheese custard with olive compote and basil mousse, and Chocolate Cortazár, named after the author of the South American novel and namesake, Rayuela, contains three different chocolate mousses in a layered dessert with matÈ ice cream. Her creations are famous for convincing customers who ìcanít eat another biteî to devour an entire tart, slice of cake or timbale. They are far more sophisticated than the usual blast of sugar; they combine texture, flavor, and color with incredible subtlety.
Photography by Bartomeu Amengual Bueno met Rayuela Partners HÈctor Sanz and Executive Chef M·ximo Tejada at Ola and Pipa, where she developed a good working relationship with both. Her irresistible pastries impressed Sanz there and later at Lucy Latin Kitchen, where they again collaborated with success prior to Rayuela's opening.
Lucy Latin Kitchenís broad Latin focus allowed her creativity to blossom, and she received rave reviews from food critics during her tenure there as pastry chef. She drew on influences from Italy, France, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and many other countries. Bueno was the head pastry chef at Douglas Rodriguez's Ola, Chicama, and Pipa, previous to Lucy Latin Kitchen. Before that, she worked as a pastry assistant at Mercado for three years.
Bueno's first restaurant job was in Fred's at Barney's. She worked behind the register, but she was irresistibly drawn to desserts. She found herself standing outside the pastry kitchen in rapt attention and peppering the pastry chef with questions. Soon Bueno was volunteering her time off to help out with desserts.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Bueno began creating desserts for her family and friends at an early age. Banana bread, flan, coconut cakeóher creations were so delicious that she was put on permanent dessert duty at every family gathering and party. She came to New York to expand her frontiers, but she has always drawn inspiration from her native country.