Born to parents with an appreciation for cuisine (and a great-grandmother who was a cooking instructor), José Mendín didn’t discover his own love of cooking until he was off at college on a volleyball scholarship and preparing his own meals. Mendín moved from his native Puerto Rico to Miami in 1998 to enroll at Johnson & Wales University, from which he graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor’s Degree in the Culinary Arts. Mendín went on to help open Nobu Miami that same year and Nobu London in 2002, with chefs Mark Edwards and Thomas Buckley, respectively.
In 2003, Mendín traveled to Spain to work for Chef Jesús Ramiro in Valladolid, and later Chef Juan Pablo Felipe in Madrid at Michelin-starred El Chaflán. Upon returning to Miami, he joined Rising Star alum Jordi Vallès to open Mosaico.
In 2004, Mendín opened Sushisamba Miami Beach as chef de cuisine, rising to assistant corporate chef for the company in two years and later opening Sushisamba Vegas. Continuing his streak of successful openings, Mendín opened Mercadito Chicago in 2009 and Mercadito Miami in 2010, where he met chef de cuisine Sergio Navarro. The pair partnered up with Andreas Schreiner to found The Pubbelly Restaurant Group in 2010, where the trio won StarChefs Rising Star Restaurateur Award in 2016.
Mendín is a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist for “Best Chef, Southeast.”
Corporate Pastry Chef
Maria Orantes, Food Comma Hospitality Group’s Corporate Pastry Chef, is known as one of Miami’s most innovative and creative pastry talents. A Miami Culinary Institute graduate, Orantes got her start as an intern at Michelle Bernstein’s beloved Michy’s restaurant where she quickly proved herself and was soon offered a position at both Michy’s and Bernstein’s other restaurant Sra. Martinez. Under Bernstein’s wing, Maria developed her pastry passion and strived to create memorable culinary experiences for each guest.
Eventually, Orantes was introduced to Chef Jose Mendin and Chef Sergio Navarro of Pubbelly Group. Intrigued by the flavor profiles and techniques the popular restaurateurs were employing in their Latin/Asian blended restaurants, she decided to join the up and coming team as Pastry Sous Chef. Her passion, determination and eye for detail helped Orantes craft one-of-a-kind desserts that have become menu fixtures. Ultimately, she took over the pastry program for Pubbelly Group working closely beside Chef Navarro. In this position, Maria developed a new dessert menu for Pubbelly Sushi and as the group, now encompassing several brands, began expanding, Maria developed new desserts and menus for several of their restaurants. Some of her most beloved dishes – the Miso Bread Pudding and Coco Loco – have been profiled in local and national publications and remain fan favorites.
Determine to continue her pastry education and with the team’s blessing, Orantes interned under Chef Angel Palacios, Spain’s two-Michelin-star chef. This experience allowed her to experiment with unique flavor profiles and expand her technique further. Now, as Corporate Pastry Chef for Food Comma Hospitality Group, Maria is spearheading the dessert menus for all of the concepts and continues to surprise patrons with the sweetest moments.
Founding Partner / Development Director
Founding Partner and Development Director of Food Comma Hospitality Group (FCHG) – formerly known as The Pubbelly Group – Sergio Navarro’s creativity is to credit for the interior of all the group’s restaurant and bar concepts. After many years of lending his culinary hand to pastries and desserts, he now channels his ideas into reflecting FCHG’s brand throughout its venues. He thoughtfully designs the kitchens and floorplan, producing an effective structure for each location that works to provides great service.
His memories as a child are filled with first-hand exposure to the specialties of Spain’s Basque country, a region rich with fresh, seasonally-focused fare. Navarro’s early-age love affair with food led him to attend Spain’s prestigious IES Hotel Escuela de la Comunidad de Madrid. After graduating, Navarro journeyed through the progressive techniques of Spanish cuisine, beginning in the kitchen at La Broche Madrid. During Navarro’s time as Sous Chef and Pastry Chef at La Broche, he skillfully turned familiar dishes into dishes with new and exciting flavors, an attribute that helped gain the restaurant two Michelin stars.
The opening of La Broche in Miami brought Navarro to the United States in 2001, where he worked under Chef Angel Palacios. He was part of a team at La Broche Miami that instantly made their mark on the city’s vibrant melting pot of culture. While there, Navarro explored the fusion of unfamiliar ingredients and techniques, ensuring that each new dish he created would be equally delicious.
Ready for a new challenge, he took a position under New World Cuisine founder Norman Van Aken at Mundo and later moved on =to the position of Corporate Pastry Chef for the SUSHISAMBA Restaurant Group. Navarro’s dishes nodded to the brand’s woven flavors of Japan, Brazil and Peru’s cuisines. His dedication to the craft showed in his ability to unite precision and creativity on the plate with fruit tiradito desserts that played with molecular techniques and experimented with fruit caviars.
As Chef De Cuisine of Mercadito, Navarro continued to build his culturally diverse resume and was able to incorporate his signature style flawlessly into the restaurant’s their Mexican cuisine. It was during this time that he formed a connection with Chef Jose Mendin. The two, along with partner Andreas Schreiner, teamed up to create the popular, beloved The Pubbelly Group.
In 2010, The Pubbelly Group, now FCHG, opened its first restaurant, Pubbelly (now called Pubbelly Noodle Bar) – an Asian-inspired gastropub. Following the success of their first venture, the boys launched several other concepts including: Pubbelly Sushi (Miami Beach, Brickell City Centre, American Airlines Arena, Dadeland, Aventura, Mexico City, and Casa de Campo), Baja Bao House, PB Ysla, Food Republic onboard the Norwegian Escape, Pubbelly Station, Pubbelly Sushi Market and Pawn Broker. Under their new corporate umbrella, Food Comma Hospitality, Navarro, Mendin and CEO Maximiliano Silva opened the team’s newest venture – Habitat by Jose Mendin at 1 Hotel South Beach.