About this Business
From Our Editors
As a child, Juan Mondragon used to sit in his family's kitchen, perched upon wooden chairs carved by his grandfather, and watch as his grandmother ground corn by hand for homemade tortillas. He was so in awe of the love and effort she put into each dish that sometimes, even if he was ravenous, he would just sit and admire his plate before taking the first bite. Her influence eventually inspired Juan to enroll at Gastronomico Chefuri Culinary Institute in Mexico City, where he was trained as a professional chef.
Today, at Juan's Restaurant, Chef Mondragon strives to honor his grandmother's techniques, taking care to consider each step of his recipes as he prepares them. He is perhaps most meticulous with his moles (of which he makes more than 10 varieties), keeping an eye on the sauces for six hours so that he can add each ingredient at just the right moment.
He's equally influenced by what's called pre-Hispanic Mexican cuisine, a style rooted in the indigenous ingredients used before the impact of Spanish techniques. Nopal, a type of cactus, is a favorite ingredient of Juan's, which he sometimes grinds in with corn to make his tortillas. He also pulls from a colorful, organic cornucopia of produce that includes xoconostles (cactus pears), pumpkin, squash, pomegranate, beets, and huauzontle (Mexican broccoli). Caldo de piedra, translated as rock soup, is a very popular dish Juan warms up in a very traditional way: by using stones heated over an open flame, or a flamethrower if he's in a pinch. His alternative approach to Mexican cuisine has become popular with both American and Latin celebrities, and his catering clients have included Martha Stewart, Sofia Vergara, and Oprah Winfrey. Guests of Juan's Restaurant might notice the chef looks familiar, as he's been featured on Buenos Dias Los Angeles and several other television programs.