A native of Isabela, Puerto Rico; Chef Efraín Cruz began his career at Murray Hill, a small town in New Jersey as a dishwasher until Leroy Henry gave him the opportunity to develop his skills in the kitchen, with salads and cold items, shortly after evolving to line cook. Progressing into his passion, in 1994 Cruz decides to formalize his culinary training and enrolls in “La Escuela Hotelera de Isla Verde” graduating with honors in 1996. That same year he became a member of the of the opening crew at the Mayagüez Resort & Casino holding the Sous Chef position, and was also awarded a scholarship to further his education at Johnson & Wales University in Florida where he graduated Summa Cum Laude.
Efraín mixes his passion for local ingredients with avant-garde techniques; a combination of skill and philosophy that has led him to the creation of his own style of modern Puerto Rican food.
Ten years+ experience as Executive Chef on the island have allowed him to participate and win various culinary competitions in Puerto Rico and United States; being a member of the Puerto Rico National Culinary Team in 2002 and 2007, where he won the gold medal at the “Taste of the Caribbean” competition, grasping the Team Captain leadership in 2007.
Chef Cruz has moved on to be Puerto Rico´s ambassador at the third season dinner of the hit series “Bravo’s Top Chef” during the Aspen Food & Wine Festival in 2008 and has proved over and over again to be a crowd’s favorite during the annual Saborea Puerto Rico Culinary Extravaganza, for his catchy personality and appealing creations; earning a distinct celebrity chef status on the island. He has worked alongside worlds’ famous chef and chocolatier Jacques Torres, Spain’s nouvelle chef Dani García, was the first runner up of the first edition of Master Chef Puerto Rico and has performed cooking demonstrations promoting the Cuisine of Puerto Rico during FITUR, the world´s largest tourism fair held each year in Madrid, Spain; where the flavors of Puerto Rico were a massive success among visitors.
Chef Efraín is committed to the creation of an aggressive program for students of Culinary Arts and the development of local talent. Recently he was awarded tribute for his career and contributions to the Culinary Arts industry in Puerto Rico in his hometown during the “Isabela Tiene Sabor” food festival and hosted the Culinary Arts Cultural Exchange Dinner between Puerto Rico and Panama at “De Norte A Sur” an international gastronomic fair that promotes the flavors of Latin America and the Caribbean held in Ponce each October. Cruz is currently Executive Chef at the InterContinental San Juan Resort & Casino.