141 Giralda Ave.
Coral Gables, FL 33134

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Cacao | Coral Gables, FL


Edgar Leal
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 Moka Café.

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.

   Published: October 2004