At just 31 years old, Chef Juan Manuel Barrientos “Juanma” of ElCielo has found his niche in the culinary market, standing out from competitors as a triple threat—a chef, businessman and a philanthropist. Chef Juanma enhances traditional culinary skills by combining them with his knowledge of neuroscience to bring forth his exquisite Colombian-inspired cuisine to his ElCielo restaurants in South America and Miami.
Chef Juanma infuses his Colombian roots into the creation of all his unique dishes. “My kitchen is about creativity,” Chef Juanma explains. “We mix traditional techniques from indigenous Colombia with modern techniques to create our menu.”
Chef Juanma takes it a step further by creatively combining the study of neuroscience to dictate the menu, aiming to stimulate the consumer’s senses.
“I study neuroscience and marketing to determine the reactions to certain foods in the brain. I look at what one eats and how things are triggered in the brain so we can create dishes that are powered by stimulating positive emotions and reactions to the food,” Chef Juanma said.
The Chef began his studies in 2010, learning about medicine, neuromarketing, psychology, and biology. He learned how to use these findings to create the best dishes for his audience—a skill that requires much time and knowledge to perfect.
ElCielo in Miami is Chef Juanma’s newest addition, situated along the Miami River in Brickell for close to one year. The stunning waterfront restaurant seamlessly incorporates all five senses into each of their two menus, “The Trip” and “The Journey,” which highlight Chef Juanma’s Colombian roots and impeccable culinary skill.
One of Chef Juanma’s greatest accolades was his 2015 award where ElCielo was named #30 on the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Even more impressive than the prestigious title is that Chef Juanma is the youngest recipient of the award to date.
While Chef Juanma prides himself on his three successful restaurants in Medellin, Bogotá, and Miami, even more important to him is his foundation, “ElCielo Para Todos.” The charity aims to offer new opportunities to wounded soldiers, guerilla members, victims of war, and the indigenous population. The foundation helps “cook the peace in Colombia” by giving the wounded soldiers and ex-guerilla members the opportunity to start fresh and develop a new trade, teaching them culinary skills and helping them adjust to a new life.
Chef Juanma looks forward to future success at ElCielo Miami, especially with the nearby Brickell City Center opening open. “I think Brickell will be even more alive, which is great for the restaurant. The city is changing so fast and Miami has a lot of future—I’m excited to be a part of it.”