EDGAR LEAL and
MARIANA MONTERO DE CASTRO
Cacao | Coral Gables, FL
At the age of 17, Edgar Leal decided to kick-start his culinary
life and began working as a chef at Gazebo Restaurant in his
native Caracas, Venezuela. After two years of training under
the guidance of Chef Marc Provost, Leal seized the opportunity
to work under Chef Pierre Blanchard at Deuxime Etage Restaurant,
also in Caracas. Just six years later, his discipline, sense
of responsibility, humbleness and genuine kindness brought
Leal to Spain to work at Casa Carmona Restaurant in Seville
under Chef Iñaqui Izaguirre, winner of the national
award of gastronomy in Spain.
After two years, Leal returned home to work at ARA Restaurant
in Caracas. Three years later, Leal became the restaurant’s
Executive Chef. At the same time, he was named Executive Chef
at the Centro Lido Hotel and Nouveau Grill.
Truly committed to his craft, Leal chose to hone his skills
at New York’s Culinary Institute of America, where he
earned an A.O.S. While at the Institute, he interned at Restaurant
Daniel in New York City and El Bulli in Spain, Ferran Adria’s
famed restaurant. In 2002, Leal moved to Miami and opened
Cacao in Coral Gables. The restaurant was recently named Best
New Restaurant by both The Miami Herald and Florida Trend
magazine. In December 2003, Leal was the first Venezuelan
to present a dinner at the James Beard Foundation House in
New York City.
Leal is a classical musician, playing both violin and classical
guitar in his spare time. He and his wife Mariana Montero
De Castro, Pastry Chef at Cacao, recently had their first
baby, a budding Star Chef name Edgar, Jr.
Mariana Montero De Castro
From her days as a child in Caracas, Venezuela, selling cakes
to her neighbors in the summertime, to her current role as
Pastry Chef at Cacao Restaurant in Coral Gables, Florida,
Mariana Montero has continually embraced every challenge and
moment of her career.
Montero’s entrée into the culinary world began
in 1998 with an entry-level position at Restaurant Nouveau
Grill (Grupo Ara) in Caracas. Soon she began her studies at
the Centro de Estudios Gastronomicos (CEGA), also in Caracas.
Montero then gained an internship at Restaurant ARA (also
Grupo Ara) in Caracas. After a few months, she added the duties
of Pantry Chef at another Grupo Ara restaurant, Restaurant
In 2000, Montero landed an internship in Paris at Restaurant
L’Astor. At the conclusion of the internship, Montero
remained in Paris and became a Chef Assistant at Restaurant
Le Violin D’Ingres. In 2001 Montero continued her culinary
studies in France, earning the Ecole Superior de Cuisine Française
from Gregorire-Ferrandi and a Certificate of Professional
Hability in Gastronomy. During this time she also became the
Chef Assistant at Restaurant Laurent that provided her first
role as Garde Manger. In late 2001 Montero returned to her
native Caracas where she became a Chef Instructor at Centro
de Estudios Gastronomicos.
Montero moved to Miami with her husband Edgar Leal to open
Cacao Restaurant in Coral Gables in January of 2003. She took
on the role of Chef de Partie and Garde Manger, overseeing
a kitchen staff of seven and taking on the responsibility
of creating dinner specials and menus for special events.
In her spare time, Montero enjoys dining and dancing with
her husband as well as moments of solitude. There aren’t
too many of these anymore now that Edgar, Jr. has arrived.