A leader in Mexico’s culinary world, José Manuel was born in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, where he grew up amidst the warmth and aromas of his grandmother’s pots and stoves, who, with age-old wisdom, transformed earthly gifts into divine dishes. She was the first to reveal the secrets of cooking to young José Manuel. Eager to find his own take on food, he moved to Puebla to study gastronomy at the Culinary Institute of Mexico, a school that broadened his horizons and curiosity. He soon embarked on a trip to Europe, where for three years, with patience and discipline, he extracted the essences of other traditions and the creative passion of great chefs like Juan Mari Arzak and Ferran Adria. Back in Oaxaca, one more influence strengthened his experience, cooking with chef Alejandro Ruiz during the opening of Casa Oaxaca.
The memories of his childhood, his academic upbringing, his experiences at distant kitchens, the external influences and, above all, his interest to recover his grandmother’s recipes and the essence of flavors from the Coast, the Mixteca and the Valleys, all led José Manuel to open Pitiona, Cocina de Autor in the Oaxacan capital, a restaurant that in 2014 occupied a place in the list of the coveted S. Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants, a mere four years after its opening.
The sensibility, good taste and seriousness with which Chef Baños approached this culinary project attracted the attention of the specialists almost immediately, making him worthy of the Young Promise Chef award in 2011 for the Travel+Leisure Gourmet Awards, a year later being recognized as a finalist in the 2012 Travel+Leisure Gourmet Awards Best Tasting Menu in the country, and receiving the award Chef of the Year award for GQ mMagazine in 2014. To top it off, the Conde Nast Traveler of NYC, included Pitiona in their best “21 New Restaurants in the
world” list, while Food & Wine Magazine named the restaurant “the most exciting cooking talents in the world”, that same year the National Chamber of Restaurants awarded Chef Baños the Restaurant Merit Award.
The pride and respect for his roots combined with his passion as a Chef are recognized time after time, leading Chef Baños to participate in projects such as consulting for Presidente Intercontinental’s Chapulin Restaurant as well as Aguamiel Restaurant, both located in Mexico City. Invitations to national and international gastronomic events, such as Millesimé México, Millesimé España and El Saber del Sabor, to mention a few; as well as in the Miniatures Pintxos Congress, Food and Wine Festival, and Madrid Fusión during different editions.
Chef Baños tirelessly prepares dishes of ancient lineages and innovative flavors that awaken palates with our culture’s most exquisite gifts. Given his professionalism and gastronomic excellence, José Manuel has served as Mexico’s culinary ambassador abroad on different occasions. In 2012, when he was invited to Singapore’s Mexican Embassy by the Federal Government, catering a fine dining menu offered to high dignitaries of both countries; he was later commissioned to represent our country in the framework of the dual Mexico-Great Britain year, with a dinner offered in London; on this continent, he traveled to Bolivia during a famed gastronomic week representing Oaxaca cuisine.
This Oaxacan chef walks through life and the world, knowing that experiences, like the ingredients in a recipe, nourish and enrich the soul, he humbly and generously gives and receives knowledge within the kitchen.
José Manuel understands that a good dish does not start in the kitchen but sinks its roots in the land and dives into the sea, is seasoned with the hands of peasants and fishermen, and adopts both the color and authenticity from the markets. Therefore, he knows that the true challenge of a Chef is to preserve that quality, flavors and aromas in a creative way. José Manuel Baños takes into consideration these raw materials’ journey, working and allying with producers from the Coast, the Papaloapan Basin, the Central Valleys, and the Cañada. He also participates in a conservation program involving the chilhuacle chile, certain types of coastal honey, and the recovery of potato species that are in danger of extinction in Oaxaca. It is no wonder this awareness is appreciated in each of his culinary creations, utilizing 100% Mexican products, ranging from the Baja California olive oil that bathes the pan, to the pinch of salt, a final touch that comes from the coast of Oaxaca.
A constant protagonist of dynamic cuisine, created over time with patience and simmering taken from his childhood kitchen to nowadays Pitiona Restaurant, Chef José Manuel Baños takes nothing for granted. Experiment, test, imagine, weave millennial flavors in new age cuisine, employing ancestral and avant-garde techniques, with respect to that traveler who is still searching for the very best of his origins.