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Chef Spotlight: Saul Montiel of CANTINA ROOFTOP

Chef Spotlight: Saul Montiel of CANTINA ROOFTOP

Saul Montiel is the Executive Chef of Cantina Rooftop, one of New York City's most popular rooftop spots. Montiel, now age 35, was born in Atotonilco el Grande, a small town outside of the city of Pachuca in central Mexico. Montiel was one of four children, all of whom were raised by his single mother, Margarita Montiel Perez. As a young child, Montiel adopted the kitchen as his second home, where he developed a passion for food.

At age fifteen, Montiel moved to the United States and lived with family members in New York City and began work at Diva. It was there that Montiel learned much from the cooks he worked with. Montiel's culinary skills allowed him to quickly advance in the kitchen. He began working at I Coppi, a Tuscan cuisine restaurant, and was responsible for its salads, pizzas, and desserts. He also worked at Amaranth, an Upper East Side restaurant that specializes in the fusion of Italian and French cuisines.

It was at his next job, at the Mediterranean restaurant Tappo, that Montiel had the good fortune of meeting Chef Jodi Williams, now a television personality on Food Network. Williams served as a mentor to Montiel, teaching him many of his culinary skills and reaffirming his passion for food. At nineteen years of age, Montiel worked directly under Williams as Tappo's sous chef. When Williams moved to Giorgione, founded by Giorgio DeLuca of Dean & DeLuca gourmet foods line, she invited Montiel to work with her once again. Montiel continued to work as Giorgione's sous chef until he was appointed executive chef when Williams moved to another restaurant. After Giorgione, Montiel moved to SoHo's Lure Fishbar, where he worked as sous chef to Chef Josh Capon.

After his work at Lure, Montiel was invited by Williams to work as the sous chef of Gusto Ristorante e Bar Americano, owned by restaurateur Sasha Muniak, the founder of New York's Mangia Corporation. At Gusto, Montiel worked as sous chef to celebrity chefs, Amanda Freitag and Anne Burrell.

In 2008, Montiel became executive chef of Gusto and in 2009, he became part-owner of the restaurant. He is also part-owner of The Lexington Social, a cocktail and Mediterranean tapas lounge located in East Harlem.

While at Gusto, Montiel has been featured on several television programs, including Telemundo's "Al Rojo Vivo" and Univision's "Despierta America." He has been featured on the front page of El Diario and has been recognized for his contributions to the Latino community in New York City.

In 2017 he reopened he's grandparents old restaurant "LA UNICA" on a new Location, making the decor vintage and rustic. Also new menu that reflects the old world Mexican cuisine and new world Mexican cuisine. he took old recipes and made them fun and delicious, adding some American dishes with a Mexican twist.

And now, Saul Montiel lends his experience and many talents to Cantina Rooftop. had the pleasure of interviewing Saul Montiel about his career and Cantina Rooftop for our "Chef Spotlight."

What was your earliest interest in cooking?

I grew up in my mother & grandmother's restaurant-kitchen, "LaUnica" that was located in Hidalgo in Mexico.

Who were some of your career mentors?

My Mom Margarita Montiel, Sara Jenkins, Jody Williams, Josh Capon, Julian Medina & Amanda Freitag

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

I have been cooking Italian and Mediterranean food for over 12 years. I love the simplicity of Italian and Mediterranean foods. Eight years ago I started cooking Mexican food and I fell in love just like when I was a kid.

What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?

The style of food that we are cooking at Cantina Rooftop is what I like to eat on the streets of Mexico; like in the town of Ensenada they make the best seafood tostadas, the Mexico City street tacos and the fresh blue corn tortillas from my town, Atotonilco El Grande.

What is your favorite meal?

Mixiote de Carnero "lamb cooked in the skin of the agave leves) and Amatrianca Pasta that my wife makes for me. I taught her how to make it and now she makes it better then me.

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.

One of my favorite things from Cantina is the view of NYC. We also make the guacamoles to order, not just a classic guacamole we also have one with fruit and my favorite with grilled corn, chipotle and queso fresco. It is like having a personal rooftop and fun fiestas every day.

Cantina Rooftop is located at 605 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Call them at 212.957.1700 and visit

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Saul Montiel and Cantina Rooftop

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