Mario is the owner of three of the finest restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico: MARIO PAGAN, his flagship restaurant, and SAGE Steak Loft at Olive Boutique Hotel, both located in Condado. He’s also the Executive Chef at the Dorado Beach & Golf Resort where he oversees MELAO by Mario Pagan, his newest restaurant which opened its doors after Hurricane Maria. His dedication to introducing modern Puerto Rican and Caribbean flavors to the rest of the world will again shine at RAYA, his latest exploration into Carib-Asian fare at the new OLV Hotel in Condado.
Mario’s passion for cooking began while watching the women in his family prepare traditional Caribbean meals in his childhood. In 1992, while in Miami in his second year of Architecture school, he decided to make a career change to pursue his passion for food and enrolled at Johnson & Wales University. He then went on to hone his skills in the kitchens of well-known chefs such as Carmen Gonzalez, Pascal Oudin, the great Norman Van Aken, and the man he considers his mentor, Alfredo Ayala, the founder of CHAYOTE Restaurant. Mario bought CHAYOTE off Ayala, the first restaurant he owned, and then went on to open LEMONGRASS and LAUREL kitchen art bar at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico.
He’s a member of the James Beard Foundation’s State Department Culinary Diplomacy Chefs Partnership and was featured at the 2015 Milan World Expo. He’s also a member of an army of chefs recruited by the James Beard Foundation and Chefs Collaborative to educate on sustainability and food consciousness all over the world.
He has always been involved in helping children-based organizations like St Jude’s Children Hospital for their annual gala in Puerto Rico and his own charity, “Play it Forward with Mario & Friends,” which donates toys to foster kids on the island.
Mario was a featured chef on Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef” 3rd season. He hosted two cooking television series on FOX Latino, “Sabores de Ensueño” and “Boricuas,” and also co-wrote books “Cocinas del Mundo del Caribe: and “La Gran Cocina Caribeña.” His most recent collaboration on “Waste Not,” a book by the James Beard Foundation on food waste, was published in September 2018.
One of the most recent and important collaborations has been with his friend Chef José Andres on creating awareness and support for World Central Kitchen and Chefs For Puerto Rico.