A very dear friend of our team, this website and our publisher passed away in March, following a severe asthma attack that put him in a six-day coma. Chef MÃ¡ximo Tejada can truly be remembered as a great friend and the founder of the ‘Estilo Libre’ movement in pan-Latino cuisine.
MÃ¡ximo Tejada was the Executive Chef and partner of Rayuela Restaurant, established in 2007 in New Yorkâ€™s Lower East Side, and headquarters of his Estilo Libre Latino cuisine, which respects yet redefines contemporary Latin American and Spanish dishes. His second restaurant, Macondo, is an exploration of Latino Comida de la Calle, and offers a menu featuring his version of tapas-style dishes. Tejadaâ€™s cooking was a tangible illustration of his soul, bringing to every creation a harmonious layering of intense and delicate flavors.
It was at Rayuela where Tejada found himself at home, and, as a true artist, connected with others through the craft of cooking. Author of Estilo Libre Latino cuisine, Tejada re-envisioned Latin American and Spanish classics through a constant search for new horizons within this traditional cuisine. His kitchen was unpretentious and his menus reflect his unique heritage and experiences â€“a complex merging of Dominican Republic, Peru, Puerto Rico, and New York legacies. Once trained as a wood carpenter, interior designer and watercolorist, it comes with no surprise that he approached each new culinary creation with an artistic zeal. A perfect example of Cocina de Autor, Maximoâ€™s work was an artistic culinary expression where the love of people inspires creative, heartfelt cooking.
Tejada graduated from the French Culinary Institute in 1996 and was quickly recruited by famed New York Times three-star Latin restaurant Patria. His talent soon got him to Chicama and Pipa Tapas Restaurant where he became head chef and helped Chicama earn two stars from the New York Times. He further honed his skills at OLA, before returning to Lucy Latin Kitchen, in 2004 (which earned three stars from Crainâ€™s New York Business). Tejadaâ€™s accomplishments within New Yorkâ€™s culinary scene are remarkable, but he truly owes his success to his grandmother from whom he learned the true meaning of soulful home cooking.
At the age of 21, Tejada moved to New York, claiming his first job in the industry as a server aboard a World Yacht Cruise boat and rose through the ranks of the elite cruise line and later through operations at Water Club and the Rainbow Room. These experiences inspired him to pursue a culinary career.
Tejadaâ€™s keen interest in Spanish cuisine opened a new chapter in his career. His exploration in this area is the epicenter of novel culinary foundations which confidently believe already show in new projects and restaurants around the world.
MÃ¡ximo will be sorely missed and his passing at a young age has come as quite a shock to us. We remember him as a trendy, handsome, quiet man who hated publicity but grew to accept it. He always wore the most comfortable, stylish uniforms, rarely appearing in typical chef’s whites but always impeccably attired. The was a trend-setter in food and chef’s fashions, but most of all, he was a warm-hearted, loving man with a generous and kind soul.