DOWNTOWN MAGAZINE NYC
by Nicole Haddad
Chef Natalia Vallejo, a one-woman powerhouse, is a culinary artist bringing Puerto Rican cuisine to the forefront of the farm-to-table and sea-to-land movement. Though Vallejo began her culinary studies in Puerto Rico, she took off to Argentina at an early age to continue her training. Her fearless attitude paid off, she has since made an indelible mark in the world of cuisine—even enjoying the honor of being invited to cook at the James Beard House this past December.
Vallejo’s initial path to South America led her on a culinary journey across the world, working as a chef in Argentina, Spain, and finally Chile before returning to her island just prior to Hurricane Maria. Her return though, was full of intention: to elevate Puerto Rican cuisine in the eyes of the world and help to create a self-sustaining culinary ecosystem on the island. Vallejo has stayed true to that goal, having worked with numerous farms, fisherman, and local sources in Puerto Rico in all her culinary endeavors, from her time as the head chef of Finca before Hurricane Maria changed her circumstances, to hosting and catering events and parties across the island.
Today, Vallejo is the proud owner, founder, and chef of Cocina al Fondo in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Her restaurant—which offers Puerto Rican dishes dosed with a bit of flavor from cities around the world—explores the history of the island’s culture through its flavors, recipes, and ingredients.