Chef José Ramírez-Ruiz of Semilla - Biography

Brooklyn, NY

September 2015

After cutting their teeth at top New York City restaurants, such as Per Se, Brooklyn Fare, and Isa, Chef José Ramírez-Ruiz and Pastry Chef Pam Yung decided it was time to sink their teeth into a venture all their own. In 2012, the two opened veggie-forward, BYOB pop-up Chez José in Williamsburg. Although a big success, Chez José was in a small space and could only accommodate four to eight guests in a given seating. When nearby restaurant Lake Trout closed, Ramírez-Ruiz and Yung jumped at the chance to take over the (slightly) larger venue, and planted the seeds for Semilla.

Solidifying a partnership with Lake Trout’s owner Joe Carroll (also responsible for neighborhood fave Fette Sau), the chef-duo started renovations in 2013. The ground floor location on Havemeyer Street was built out and finished entirely by Ramírez-Ruiz and Yung. With enough space to come into their own, they forged ahead (quietly) opening Semilla with Ramírez-Ruiz’s artful, organic, almost-all-vegetable prefixe menu; Yung’s desserts and soon-to-be sought after breads; and intriguing wine and beer lists. Much like their lively, still-just-a-bit-gritty block in Williamsburg on a Friday night, people started making noise about Semilla. The cuisine may be understated but the voices of critics, guests, and other chefs were loud in praise of the new eatery.

Semilla sent our their first idea-driven plates in late 2014, and by early 2015 The New York Times awarded it two stars. Every night is different at Semilla’s counter. The ever-transforming menu is complex, yet simmering in simplicity and charm. A four-star review from Eater’s Bill Addison, called Semilla “New York's Next Great Restaurant,” and Bon Appétit named it one of America’s top 10 new restaurants of 2015. Sabering off quite a year for Ramírez-Ruiz and Yung, Semilla received a Michelin star in September.