Chef Mariana Montero De Castro of CACAO (Now Closed) - Biography

Coral Gables, FL

June 2004
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 ARA (also Grupo Ara) in Caracas. After a few months, she added the duties of pastry 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. The restaurant, and their hard work, earned the couple a spot among the 2004 StarChefs.com Rising Stars.