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Meet the chefs

Six chefs share a kitchen in support of nature conservation.

Chef Martín Louzao

Cocina Abierta

Martín Lauzao graduated from the Gato Dumas Gastronomy College in Argentina, postgraduate studies at l’École Lenôtre in Paris, and at the Maussi Sebess International Institute of Culinary Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has collaborated in several Michelin-starred restaurants and has worked in kitchens in northern Italy, Spain, and France. He has developed numerous gastronomic projects in Puerto Rico: Cocina Abierta, Touro, Nonna Cucina Rustica, Finca, Panka, and the Atelier in CA.

Chef Martín is also co-founder of PRoduce!, a local platform that functions as a virtual marketplace connecting producers from all over the island with the restaurant industry, giving them direct access to local products. Thanks to his work with PRoduce!, Chef Martin and the platform were nominated by the James Beard Foundation as one of 12 Leadership and Resilience Projects in 2021.

Chef Gabriel Hernández

Verde Mesa

Gabriel Hernández is the executive chef of Verde Mesa, a restaurant established 11 years ago in Old San Juan. He is also a pioneer in the practice of revitalizing the use of local products. In 2018, Chef Gabriel was nominated as a semifinalist in the Best Chef of the South category by the James Beard Foundation.

Chef Lucía Merino

Lucía Patisserie

Lucía Merino was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Lucía is a pastry chef with over 15 years of experience in the industry and is the co-founder of Lucía Patisserie in Miramar. She completed her education in Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University and after an inspiring job under Master Pastry Chef Frederic Monet at the Ritz Carlton, her love and passion for classic French pastries blossomed.

Inspired by her travels and experiences, Lucía returned to Puerto Rico in 2015 with her husband, Johan, to open what they had always dreamed of: a patisserie where they could offer classic French confections while incorporating typical Puerto Rican flavors and ingredients.

Chef Francis Guzmán


After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York, Francis Guzmán worked in several fine dining restaurants in San Francisco. After 4 years, he moved to New York where he worked at Blue Hill and later as a sous-chef at the two Michelin star-rated restaurant, The Modern.

In 2018, Chef Francis and his wife Amelia opened Vianda in Santurce, where they serve a small and constantly evolving menu, always anchored by local ingredients. They have also recently opened up a new restaurant, La Santurcina, in San Juan.

Chef Natalia Vallejo

Cocina al Fondo

Natalia Lucía Vallejo Rivera began her studies in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. In 2007, she traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to begin her culinary studies, where she graduated as a Professional in Culinary Arts. In 2019, she opened Cocina Al Fondo in Santurce, Puerto Rico, which was nominated for the Best New Restaurant Award by the James Beard Foundation.

Chef María Grubb

Underground Dining Club

María Mercedes Grubb graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York City where she also gained years of experience in restaurants such as The Modern, Maialino, and Pastis. In 2013, Chef María Mercedes and her brother opened Gallo Negro in Santurce. In 2019, Chef María Mercedes became the first Puerto Rican culinary industry woman to be nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Award. She was also chosen by Food & Wine magazine as one of the top chefs leading the Puerto Rican culinary renaissance.

For over five decades, Para la Naturaleza has worked to preserve natural areas and historic sites that currently serve communities as oases of health. Additionally, we always seek to facilitate and support as much as possible the sustainable recovery of Puerto Rico.

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