Magdalena Munao Magdalena Munao | March 19, 2020 |
Though breaking into the restaurant business is typically a capricious road to navigate, for Santiago Perez, the genesis of his career as a restaurateur began with a plan for longevity. With the debut of his New York high-end restaurant Cosme in 2015, Perez strategically designed his business with plans of opening up not just one restaurant, but opening one that would transcend its single location and further have the capability to expand on a national scale.
“I never really started thinking about opening one restaurant,” Perez says. “I always had the idea of building a business and using the first restaurant as a platform that could serve as the initial stepping stone to showcase Mexican cuisine.”
Today with Cosme and ATLA, his two established New York restaurants, as well as two more opening this year, Elio at the Wynn in Las Vegas and Damian in Los Angeles, Perez’s focus is fixated on the big picture. With each of his restaurant openings, the Mexico native stays committed to making decisions that contribute to the future of his company. Cosme, for instance, began when Perez, along architect and longtime friend Alonso de Garay, saw opportunity in the Mexican restaurant industry. They wanted to develop a concept that would resonate with people from all restaurant-goers, not just those seeking a Mexican food experience.
“For so long, Mexican food has been considered cheap or unhealthy,” Perez says. “But, there’s so much more to it. We wanted to show the richness and depth of the culture.”
Though his establishments are not defined as “Mexican,” they are each infused with the essence of the country’s culture. Perez guarantees this with the relationships they have developed with their Mexican food suppliers.
Thanks to his steadfast sources, each restaurant’s food is undoubtedly indicative of an authentic Mexican food experience. Once Perez and his team focused on understanding what specific foods and products needed to be sourced from Mexico, whether corn, beans, chilies, etc., quality became a key priority. Even in the industry of fast casual dining where it is difficult to consistently maintain quality, Perez’s long-standing relationships have ensured the highest of quality regardless.
“I think we’ve focused on building the right relationships with suppliers, which will help us expand.,” Perez says.
Despite the fact that he never worked in a restaurant, nor did he study hospitality in college, Perez continues to break down the barriers of traditional restaurant development.
With a strong background in banking and numbers, he now proudly approaches the restaurant business with a fresh and different perspective. As he questions and challenges what the “norms” of the business, Perez remains focused on finding new ways to effectively disrupt the restaurant world with his succinctly successful businesses.