Puerto Rican chef who lost dream after Hurricane Maria finds home in Colorado

DENVER -- One year ago, one of the most powerful storms in recorded history devastated Puerto Rico. For many on the island, their lives were turned upside down. For some, Hurricane Maria destroyed their dream.

Puerto Rican chef Sebastian Ramirez says he lost the one thing he worked his whole life to build.

“It was like my dream restaurant, doing exactly what I liked doing,” explained Ramirez.

A  few years ago Ramirez opened Parcela in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was known for its farm to table concept and the restaurant became his second home.

“We were a very tight family. So that was the toughest part for us. Like being every day in the same kitchen and all of the sudden not being with them,” added Ramirez.

The restaurant was damaged, it would be weeks before power was restored and the storm destroyed the farms Ramirez bought his food from. Ramirez was forced to make a choice.

“I just decided to not compromise what I had done in the restaurant for four years and not compromise the quality and our philosophy,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez lost his restaurant but not his hope. He stayed on the island for months doing what he could to help his neighbors. A few months after the storm hit, he got a call from a fellow Puerto Rican and friend in Denver. Juan Padro owns several restaurants and asked him to help run the kitchen of Señor Bear in the Lower Highlands.

Ramirez is now back in the place he says he belongs, in the kitchen. Like Ramirez there are many others who left the island and found jobs in the states. One year later, the dreams Hurricane Maria destroyed are now replaced with new ones.

“Everyone is the same way I am. Anxious to get back to the island once things settle down and go back to what started a few years ago.”

Ramirez says there is still a long road ahead for Puerto Rico. One way Coloradans can help is to vacation on the island. He says tourism dollars is what the island needs.

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