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|Cooking style||Puerto Rican cuisine|
Wilo Benet is a Puerto Rican celebrity chef. He is the chef owner of the Pikayo, Varita and Payá restaurants as well as the president and owner of Museum Restaurant Group.
Benet was introduced to the restaurant business when his father decided he should pursue the career he wanted. After trying photography at FIT in Miami he told his father he will do cooking and requested not to send any money to help with the expenses as he wanted to do it on his own effort. He first worked as a dishwasher at the Foxfire restaurant in Florida. After returning to Puerto Rico he started in the kitchens of the Caribe Hilton Hotel without any pay for a year. He was later a trainee at the same restaurant, where he learned how to make salads, peel shrimp and perform other simple kitchen chores. With the help of the Hilton executives and his father he was enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY which he graduated from in 1985.
After graduating, Benet worked as patissier at Le Bernardin and as poissonnier at The Water Club in New York. He also worked at Maurice Restaurant in New York. He was later chosen as Chef de Cuisine at the Governors Mansion in Puerto Rico.
In 1990, Benet opened the original Pikayo. The restaurant later moved to the facilities of the Puerto Rico Museum of Art. In September 2009 Pikayo moved to a luxurious site at the Conrad hotel in the Condado area of San Juan. In the same location, Benet also opened Varita, a woodburning rotisserie casual restaurant serving Puerto Rican food. After Pikayo he opened a more casual restaurant named Payá. Pikayo was hailed by the New York Times as "maybe the best museum restaurant in the world".
Benet has been featured in countless culinary magazines and publications like Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, American Express’ Destination magazine and Food & Wine. In February 2009 he was featured in the cover of Sante Magazine and Comercio y Produccion, the Puerto Rican official magazine of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce.
In June 2009, Benet was featured on the show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Later in the same month, he participated in Bravo's TV series Top Chef Masters, a spin-off of the award-winning show, Top Chef. Benet himself had appeared as a guest judge on the season finale of the fourth season of Top Chef. On Top Chef Masters, Benet competed against Rick Bayless, Ludovic Lefebvre, and Cindy Pawlcyn. Benet won the "Quickfire Challenge", and beat Lefebvre and Pawlcyn on the "Elimination Challenge". However, he lost to Bayless who eventually went on to win the competition.
In 2007, Benet published his first cookbook titled Puerto Rico True Flavors. The book features more than 100 recipes of Puerto Rico’s culinary style. He followed it with the Spanish book Puerto Rico Sabor Criollo. At the 2008 BookExpo America in Los Angeles, both his books won awards as Best Cookbook in English as well as in Spanish.
In May 2009, Benet stepped into the wine business with a wine called Dobleú. The wine is elaborated by Bodega Ramón Bilbao in Rioja, Spain of tempranillo grape. Wine Spectator’s Robert Parker declared it a "Best Buy" in the Wine Advocate 2009 Edition.
- Puerto Rico True Flavors (2007)
- Puerto Rico Sabor Criollo (2007)