CHICAGO — He has a big social media following but don’t call him an influencer. Chef Juan Gutierrez would rather be called an educator.
Of course, his most impressive title may be head pastry chef at one of the top hotels in Chicago at only 28 years old.
In September, he is teaching guests at Adorn Restaurant in the Four Seasons Chicago all about his native Colombia and its unique flavors.
Gutierrez was supposed to be Doctor Gutierrez following in his father’s footsteps. He was in medical school in Colombia when he decided he just didn’t love it enough.
“I just looked at myself and I thought, ‘Is this what’s going to make you happy for the rest of your life? Are you going to be able to be successful at it? Yes. But are you going to be happy?’” he said.
He said the kitchen gave him the most happiness, so with his shocked parents’ blessing, he became laser-focused on becoming a success in the kitchen.
He attended pastry school in Colombia and then left home at 18 to attend the French Pastry School in Chicago.
After school, his rise was meteoric, from working in a hotel kitchen to being an executive chef at Chicago’s Longman and Eagle at age 25. He was working at another hotel when the pandemic hit and he lost his job.
Gutierrez said he tried to relax during that time but after two months he started working in his own kitchen and posting videos of his creations online. (Find him on Instagram at @pastrychefjuan) He sold a lot of those pastries at local pop-up events.
He connected with a School of Chocolate and he said it changed his life.
Because of the School of Chocolate, Gutierrez is now traveling everywhere to teach his craft. He loves to travel to Latin America the most.
“I get offers all around the world but right now my focus is to really showcase the Latino power,” he said. “Because Latinos, they are so strong and powerful and so determined.”
But no matter how much he travels, his kitchen and his crew at Four Seasons Chicago are his home.
“One of the most beautiful things about being a chef is that I inspire my team,” he said. “I get to show them and I get to push them to become what they want to become. …They are like my kids. I love them so much and any time I do something I do it for them.”
Gutierrez already has a few new goals in mind. He wants to continue to travel the world showcasing the flavors of Latin America in his desserts and open a pastry school in Colombia like the one he attended in Chicago so that other Colombians who want to follow in his footsteps don’t have to leave their country.
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